Whangarei District Council provisionally opts out of Three Waters

Published on 30 June 2021

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Whangarei District Council today voted unanimously to provisionally opt out of the Government’s three waters reform process until new information confirming ratepayers would be better off is provided.

Council’s Mayor Sheryl Mai and Chief Executive Rob Forlong will now write to the Chief Executive of Internal Affairs advising that Council intends to formally withdraw from the reforms.

“We will be reminding the Internal Affairs Department that it said participation in the three waters reform was voluntary with the ability for Councils to opt out,” said Mayor Sheryl Mai.

“We will also note that Government’s Memorandum of Understanding that provided for Council to be part of the three waters reform expires tomorrow.

“We will also repeat that the Department of Internal affairs has refused an official information act request to provide Whangarei District Council with specific information which shows that Whangarei ratepayers would be better off under the reform.

“In short, we are asking Government to substantiate its claims and provide the information we need to make an informed decision, and making it clear that we undertook this process in good faith and that we expect the same from Government.

Whangarei District Council had earlier stated that reports from the Water Industry Commission of Scotland, Becca’s, Deloittes and Farrierswier on the proposed three waters reforms generated little confidence that Whangarei District will benefit from Government’s proposed Three Waters reform.

It said the reports looked at the general picture nationally and did not address the distinctive circumstances of Whangarei District Council.

Whangarei District Council had requested Government’s analysis of Whangarei’s situation and had not received this. Council's own preliminary analysis of the situation indicates that Whangarei could be considerably less well off if forced to amalgamate with Watercare in Auckland, so we would expect Government to provide compensation to Whangarei District Council ratepayers if the move goes ahead.

In addition to losing control of its “very well managed and maintained infrastructure”, its residents would lose up to $150 million in borrowing power that those assets provide.

Deputy Mayor Greg Innes said Government promised no Council would be worse off under Three Waters.

“For many councils that might be true, but we are unusually well off in terms of our three waters infrastructure in Whangarei, so that’s probably not true in our case.”

He pointed out major investment in and good performance by the district’s water infrastructure at a time when other cities throughout New Zealand were struggling with sewage spills from ageing infrastructure and summer after summer of water restrictions brought on by drought.

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