Tribute to retiring chief executive

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By David Hill

Water reform, roading, the infrastructure stimulus programme and Covid-19 social recovery were among the items discussed at Jim Palmer’s final council meeting on Tuesday, March 2.

Deputy Mayor Neville Atkinson paid tribute to the retiring chief executive, noting the significant role Mr Palmer had played in his 20 years of service.

“This council has been running for 32 years and in that time there have been 384 standard council meetings and Jim Palmer has attended 220 of them for his sins.”

Councillors debated a council submission to the Health Select Committee on the Water Services Bill, which seeks clarification on chlorination exemptions and raises concerns about the status of private water suppliers.

The council’s main urban water supplies in Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Oxford, Woodend and Pegasus and some rural supplies are able to meet the national drinking water standards without chlorination.

“We have stated in the submission that we have consulted with the community in the past and the community has made it clear that it does not want chlorination of its drinking water,” three waters manager Kalley Simpson says.

The council supplies drinking water to around 80 percent of residents in the district, while the remaining 20 percent receive their water from private supplies.

Private water suppliers will be included in the legislation and will be required to register with the Crown agent, Taumata Arowai, which is being established this month.

The council believes compliance requirements need to be proportional to scale and it is concerned about the impact of the legislation on private suppliers and who is responsible for supporting these suppliers.

Mr Simpson said the process appeared to be straight forward for suppliers who are compliant with the drinking water standards, but the council understands there are a number of private schemes which are not.

The Water Services Bill states that territorial authorities would be obliged to step in and “take over the management of a failing private drinking water supplier”, he said.

Councillors voted to approve the council’s contribution of $147,000 towards Southbrook road improvements, including preparing the designation of land for the proposed Rangiora eastern link road.

The council is hopeful of receiving a 51 percent Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) subsidy towards the project.

The proposed eastern link is unlikely to be constructed until 2035 at the earliest, but Cr Joan Ward called on the project to be brought forward in a bid to ease traffic congestion at Southbrook.

Councillors approved the creation of a Cust headworks upgrade to be added to the council’s infrastructure projects under the government’s Stimulus funding, with $220,900 set aside.

Mr Simpson reported that most of the contracts have been awarded, with several awarded under budget.

Funding of $70,000 was also approved from the council’s Covid-19 recovery fund to allow the community team to continue support social recovery over the next 15 months.

Community team manager Tessa Sturley said funding had been received from the Ministry of Social Development’s Flexiwage scheme until May this year.

“This funding has resulted in the identification of gaps of social service provision in the community and has led to some key projects including the development of a website that will help link people into the services they need.

“We want to see those projects through in a sustainable fashion and to ensure our district can continue to be supported.”

To date the funding had helped facilitate several initiatives including neighbourhood barbecues over the summer, she said.