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HB regional three waters model acknowledged in Minister’s announcement

water drip

Significant changes to the Government’s proposed Three Water Reforms, which will see Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti form one entity, have been warmly welcomed by Hawke’s Bay’s mayors, regional council chair, and Ngati Kahungunu Iwi chair.

Under the new proposal, the joint Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) entity will deliver drinking, storm and waste water; one of 10 entities across New Zealand.

“Hawke’s Bay’s mayors and chair have caught up this morning, following a national mayors’ briefing by Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty, and we are all much relieved,” said Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

“We very much look forward to working with Gisborne District Council on this new entity. This is a natural boundary already linked through the number of Government services that cover the Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti regions, including police, education and MSD.”

Wairoa mayor Craig Little said it was “very pleasing” that the views of the councils and the communities had been listened to.

During the briefing, Mr McAnulty particularly thanked Hawke’s Bay’s councils for the work they had done on a regional model, which he said had “played a big part” in his thinking ahead of the change in plan.

Mr Little said discussions during the development of the regional model had included Tairāwhiti.

“This is really good news, and it was very pleasing to have our work acknowledged.”

During discussions with Government, Central Hawke’s Bay mayor Alex Walker stressed the need for a regionally-based response when water infrastructure is damaged during natural emergencies. “We talked about what would have happened with Cyclone Gabrielle when many parts of our region were cut off. Under the previous model, how would we have been reached to urgently to restore this critical infrastructure. We are very relieved to see this new proposal.”

Other changes include that every council will have a seat at the governance table of the entity, making councils accountable for including community input into decisions. That will be matched by equal mana whenua representation.

The minister’s statement said: “By extending the number of publicly owned water entities to 10, every district council in the country will have a say and representation over their local water services entities through regional representative groups, forming a partnership between council representatives and iwi/Māori that will provide strategic oversight and direction to the entities.”

Kahungunu Iwi Chairman Bayden Barber was happy to see that necessary reform was still happening. “Equal representation for Māori on the governance is still there, which is great. My question is around affordability, especially for regions like ours without a large urban population to offset some high needs rural and mainly Māori communities across Te Tairāwhiti. Generally I think the other key parts of the reform remain, such as balance sheet separation and local ownership, which is positive.”

Napier mayor Kirsten Wise said having local input into decision-making was very important.  “One of the key areas of concern for our communities was the protection of local voice in the decision-making and prioritisation of three waters investment.  Therefore the inclusion of a representative from every Council – and therefore every community – on the entity’s regional representative group is a welcome change.”

The date for final implementation has been moved out to 2026, with entities able to progress earlier if all councils are in agreement.

On entity ownership, the minister’s statement said that councils would “receive a ‘shareholding’ of the water entities in exchange for handing over water assets to the new entities, which would be able to raise funds to repair and maintain failing systems and run the day-to-day operations of the assets”.

“This new East Coast model will ensure we meet the standards imposed by new water standards regulator Taumata Arowai, enabling us all to have access to safe drinking water and to dispose of waste water in the most responsible way possible,” said Mrs Hazlehurst.

Both Gisborne District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council are the current regulators for storm and waste water in their respective regions. The change will see the region’s working closely together on regulatory requirements, said Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chair Hinewai Ormsby. “We will work together on solutions around environmental regulation and how that might look for both regions.”

In public surveys last year across the region, major concerns included the cost of the Government’s proposal, three waters resilience following natural disasters, governance and the community’s ability to input into decisions, and the prioritisation of maintenance and new projects.

13 April 2023

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