By Robyn Bristow
The Hurunui District Council has signed up for the first wave of government’s Three Waters reforms.
The decision means it will receive a grant of up to $7.5 million to upgrade its Three Waters assets – drinking water, stormwater and wastewater – as part of the Government’s $761 million Covid-19 funding package to support economic recovery.
Councillors sought assurance at Thursday’s council meeting that signing up to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and a separate Funding Agreement, did not commit the council to the second tranche of the reforms.
They also wanted certainty there would be full public consultation on any future plans for water.
The government is proposing a nationwide reform of Three Waters service delivery arrangements, and envisages establishing up to five water authorities nationwide.
Currently, delivery of water services in each district is the responsibility of the local territorial authority.
The second lot of funding, which could see Crown water authorities taking over the water functions of councils, including their assets, will be made late next year.
Chief executive officer Hamish Dobbie told councillors that signing up to the MOU committed the council to providing the government with details about its Three Water assets and services, along with its plans for the department in the future.
However, he said it did not mean the council would be handing over the control of its water asset and services.
“If at some stage in the future, council proposes changes to the governance or delivery of its Three Waters services, it is committed to under take full public consultation, in order to better understand the views of our community.”
He emphasised the agreements are not binding on either party and it was the council’s view that entering into the agreements was in the best interests of Hurunui ratepayers.
“In the meantime, this money provides the opportunity to bring forward our water services delivery plans.”
Council also instructed officers to bring back a proposed delivery plan to the September meeting to firm up the works to be undertaken under the Funding Agreement.