Fighting for Fair

Published on 14 August 2023

Photo of Mayor Vince Cocurullo in the mayoral robe and chains.

On Thursday 3 August 2023, our Council made the decision to join with Waimakariri and Timaru District Councils in appealing the High Court Decision on the Three Waters Reform.  

With the value of our Three Water assets sitting at over $800m (as of 30 June 2023), and with a replacement cost of $1.4 billion (as at 30 June 2022), we are asking if the government has a right to remove these assets from our control, and if so, whether they should be offering fair compensation.

This is a landmark case and the outcome will have a big impact on the future of all New Zealand councils within the planning processes.   

Next year, our Council will be consulting with you about our Long Term Plan (LTP), the 10-year planning tool that makes sure our priorities line up with available funds and community needs. Right now we’re starting the process of financial review and prioritising those budgets and projects. 

It’s clear that this LTP is very different to any we’ve seen before. The Three Waters Reform (now known as the Affordable Waters Reform), is changing the landscape for local governments across New Zealand, and our Council is no exception.

We’re busy figuring out what the future will look like without water assets, services and income included in our planning, and what this will mean for Council budgets, borrowing power and credit rating. At the end of the day, the big question is: what will this mean for you, our ratepayers?  

Here's what we know so far.   

If the ‘Affordable Waters’ three waters reform goes ahead, the control of Whangarei District Council’s water assets (and services) will be shifted to ‘Entity A’, which includes the Far North, Kaipara and Auckland Districts. As a result of our Council losing these assets from our balance sheets, we will no longer be receiving water rates from our District, and we will no longer be able to borrow against the income we receive from those water-associated rates.

This could have an impact on our credit rating, which would mean we may not be able to get the low interest rates we’re used to. In effect, our Council is not only losing a lot of income, but we may also be losing the ability to secure lower-interest rate loans for future projects.   

This is bad news for Whangārei District. You’ve invested heavily in our water assets for the last 50 years, and as a result, Whangārei’s water assets are among the best in New Zealand right now. Most importantly, they’re all paid off: our communities own our new $26 million Whau Valley Water Treatment Plant.

While other Districts may need more support from central government to help manage their Three Water asset debt, we’re in a completely different situation.  

I’ll leave you with this: if our government is paying the Three Waters Reform Chief Executives salaries of up to $815,500; why aren’t they paying us fair market compensation for our assets? And why is our government willing to spend an estimated $3 billion just on the planning and creation of 10 entities, when that money could actually be spent on fixing the water issues within our country right now?

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