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Hawke’s Bay three waters model gets national attention

Mayors Sandra Hazlehurst and Alex Walker

News that the Government is delaying its three waters legislation by four months is being welcomed by Hawke’s Bay’s mayors and regional council chair, saying it gives more time for the region’s alternative model to be fully considered as an option.

The Government plan would see the management of three waters [drinking water, waste water and storm water] removed from councils to four entities across New Zealand. Hawke’s Bay would be part of an entity that would stretch from Gisborne to Wellington, and include the top of the North Island and the Chatham Islands. Over the past three years, Hawke’s Bay has developed a regional model that it believes addresses shortcomings in the Government plan.

The announcement that the Government had put a hold on the legislation came as Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor Alex Walker travelled to Wellington to present the regional model at the invitation of the Government-convened Three Waters Working Group. The group was set up in November in response to deeply-held concerns about the Government model by councils across New Zealand.

“I am extremely pleased that the Government is taking the time to listen to councils and their communities,” said Mrs Hazlehurst. “The Government’s proposed change to the management of three waters [drinking water, waste water and storm water] will have lasting impacts for our people now and future generations, so we must get this right.”

Mayor Walker and Mayor Hazlehurst, representing all of Hawke’s Bay councils, presented the regional model to the Working Group on Friday [December 10].

Mrs Hazlehurst said Hawke’s Bay’s regional leaders all acknowledged that there had to be change to the delivery of three waters, to ensure the protection of health and the environment at a reasonable cost, but they did not agree with the Government model.

Concerns included asset ownership and management, how maintenance, renewals and new projects would be prioritised, the many-layered governance structure, which did not have any obvious close link to community input, and the figures used to support the proposed change.

Mayor Walker said Hawke’s Bay’s regional model addresses those concerns, and she is proud that the region continues to provide leadership in Three Waters reform landscape.

"Being at the table in Wellington today is vital to us influencing the best outcomes for our whānau and businesses across Hawke's Bay. We know that both our rural and urban communities need to see and have confidence in how our infrastructure is delivered and that our regionally-based model can give us that in a way that the Government’s proposed four-entity model can't. "

Mayor Hazlehurst told the Working Group that the figures in the Government model are particularly concerning.

“It would have us believe that in Hastings alone we need to spend $60 million a year for the next 30 years enhancing water services, which adds up to $1.9 billion. I have to ask, what on?  We have upgraded all of our small community drinking water network and have almost completed new treatment and storage facilities for our two large urban supplies at a cost of $82m. We have invested in $45m in waste water treatment.

“That the modellers have decided another $1.9b needs to be spent lacks credibility.”

The Government has said it now intends to introduce legislation at the end of March 2022.

“We have high hopes that our regional model will receive the serious consideration it deserves between now and then,” said Mayor Hazlehurst.

10 December 2021

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