Residents give clear message

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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Ninety five percent of Waimakariri residents who took part in a Three Waters Reform survey, want the council to `opt out’ of the Government’s proposal.

The Waimakariri District Council received 3800 submissions from the survey, over three weeks.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon says residents expressed a very clear position and the survey results clearly demonstrate the public’s concerns about the Government’s “pre-determined and fixed-view” on the case for change.

“There is a clear message from residents that they do not support this reform proposal.

“Residents are not happy about losing control over their assets and infrastructure, they value local say and management, and they have a number of valid concerns the Government needs to listen to,” says Mr Gordon.

“Serious concerns were raised about the accuracy of the proposed efficiencies behind the proposal for change.”

The Hurunui and Kaikoura District Councils have also had a big response from their residents after the call for comment.

Hurunui chief executive Hamish Dobbie says the council is pleased with the response to its invitation for comment on the government’s proposal to reform the delivery of three waters services.

Members of the public were almost unanimously opposed to the proposed reform, citing loss of local control, undervaluing of assets and complexity of governance arrangement as key issues.

The Hurunui council invited the public to comment in person, via email, via social media, through its service centres and through Zoom drop in sessions.

Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle says the initial feedback from its residents would be useful when the council considers and questions what the government is proposing.

If the reform goes ahead, the three North Canterbury councils will become part of an entity that covers most of the South Island.

The Government has given councils until the end of September to provide feedback.

Mr Gordon says Waimakariri residents expressed concerns about losing local knowledge and control on how water services are provided, rates being used to subsidise upgrades in other areas, wanting local management and provision of Three Water Services and appropriate compensation for transfer of community assets.

“They sought for the reform proposals to take place alongside wider Future for Local Government and Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms.”

Mr Gordon says his council had the Government proposal independently reviewed. The review raised concerns about core assumptions behind the proposal for change and questioned the proposed efficiencies.

“It also queried whether the Scottish model, which these reforms are based on, is applicable nationally, as well as to the Waimakariri District.

“This research also raises serious questions regarding the discrepancies in the proposed costs with and without reform, and a requirement for all associated reform to take place in conjunction for the proposal to be successful.”

The Waimakariri District Council, along with all Canterbury Mayors are calling on the Government to press pause and work with councils and communities on the issue.

“Everyone agrees that quality drinking water and better environmental outcomes are essential.

“The council doesn’t accept the premise that there is only one way to achieve these outcomes. Rushed reform won’t benefit anyone. The case for change nationally is flawed and Waimakariri residents are overwhelmingly saying that they don’t support the proposal.

“I think the proposal as it stands is inaccurate and out of touch,” Mr Gordon says.

The council will decide on its formal response to Government at a special meeting on Tuesday, September 28.