The Government is proposing moving the management of drinking water, waste water and storm water (Three Waters) services away from city and district councils, to one of four entities across New Zealand.
It believes that its proposal will enable water quality standards to be met consistently across the three waters systems at a lower cost than can be achieved by individual councils.
The proposal, if progressed, would see Hastings three waters systems managed by an entity responsible for 21 councils; for a population of just on one million.
It is important that we all understand what this would mean for Hastings and our wider region, before any decisions are made
At the end of June, Government announced its national proposal. On July 30, it published guidance on it for councils, announced a funding package that would accompany the scheme ($38.4 million for Hastings), and agreed to give councils until October 1 to consider the reforms and provide feedback to Government.
Council and our regional partners are using this eight weeks to fully understand the complex proposal, put questions to Government, gather input from our communities, and provide feedback to Government. This process is expected to provide us with more detailed information that will enable a further conversation with our residents.
If Council has a say in the final proposal, it is committed to holding community-wide discussions on the benefits and drawbacks of it, once the detail has been clarified by Government in late September/early October. In the meantime, we want to provide you with a way to share your feedback about the future management of your water, based on the information we have to date, so we can ensure we represent your views to Government during this phase.
On Thursday 16 September we live-streamed a Q&A session through the Hastings District Council Facebook page. You can watch recording of this session below. We would like to thank all those who participated and asked questions.
In 2019/2020 the five councils across Hawke’s Bay (Hastings, Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay and the regional council) completed a joint review of water services across the region, targeted at finding efficiencies by working collaboratively.
The work highlighted the status quo was not the most effective or efficient way to deliver the water services, particularly given the increasing national standards, and the costs involved to achieve them. The outcome was that there were efficiencies to be gained by one entity delivering water services across Hawke’s Bay.
You can read the report here and watch a video summary below.
All the information available to date, including the Government’s proposal and the work the region’s councils have done as a group, is on the Hawke's Bay Three Waters website.
The Government is proposing transferring the ownership and management of council-owned drinking water, wastewater and storm water from New Zealand’s 67 councils, to four national entities. Each of those entities would be owned by the councils in the area that it covers. In the case of Hastings, the entity would be looking after 21 council areas, home to just under one million people.
Government has proposed a complex structure led by representatives of the councils and mana whenua in an entity’s area. They would appoint an ‘Independent Selection Panel’ which would appoint an ‘Entity Board’ which would govern the ‘Entity Management’. Each entity will have to engage with its community on strategic direction.
The new entity (owned by all of the councils) would own the infrastructure, both existing and new, and will be responsible for managing it.
Just as they do presently, households, businesses and organisations using the infrastructure would pay for the water services they receive. The finer detail of the payment structure under the Government proposal is not yet known. There is no indication in the proposal that those not connected to the networks would be involved or expected to pay.
Government believes its proposed structure would lead to a much lower increases in costs to those using the three waters infrastructure.
A business case completed by the five Hawke’s Bay councils on a regional Three Waters solution over the last two years does not align with the Government’s figures, suggesting the forecast savings are uncertain.
The councils are continuing to work through the financial modelling.
Hastings District Council owns three waters infrastructure valued in excess of $1.1 billion. Council has invested in excess of $80 million in drinking water infrastructure alone over the past four years. Across all three waters infrastructure, Hastings District Council has a significant plan in place to replace pipes and expand the network, while ensuring ratepayers get as much value out of the existing infrastructure as possible.
Hawke’s Bay’s councils are in agreement with the Government that the status quo is not fit for purpose in the long term. It will become increasingly difficult for councils working alone to keep pace with the need to improve and expand the infrastructure, particularly as standards across all three waters are progressively raised. For Hawke’s Bay, the question is whether to opt in to the Government scheme, or continue along the path of developing a regional proposal.
Once Government confirms the next steps in its programme, including if and how it sees community engagement being carried out, Council will be able to advise its process. Council’s intention, subject to those Government decisions, is to fully consult with Hastings residents.
The five councils of Hawke’s Bay have been working together for nearly two years on how they could develop a model that would deliver affordable, efficient and environmentally sustainable three waters services to the region. An independent report commissioned by the councils last year showed this was achievable. The councils will continue working together to analyse the Government proposal and include the regional work in our response to Government.
The Government proposal is that all current staff would be able to transfer to the new entity, and that more staff would potentially be required. It has explicitly said that staff choosing to transfer to the new entities would retain their current conditions and be able to remain in their current location.
Under the Government proposal, Council would no longer have direct control over the planning and construction of water infrastructure for things like new housing developments or industrial areas. Council requires more information on how the planning and construction of new infrastructure would be prioritised over such large geographic areas to see if local needs can be met.
Government has announced a funding package that would be available to councils that opt in to the scheme. It is to ensure communities are better off under the proposal. It can be used to increase resilience to climate change, to build infrastructure that allow housing development (roads, street lighting etc), to enhance community well-being. The funding that would be allocated to Hastings is just over $34.8m.
The Government’s Three Waters Reform service delivery proposal affects people who use council-supplied services. Non-council-owned water supplies are being looked at separately by Government, through its Water Services Bill. A Government paper, specifically on rural supplies, can be read here.
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