Legal action to be taken by three district councils

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By Robyn Bristow

Legal proceedings have been filed in the Wellington High Court by three district councils seeking to affirm local government’s rights and obligations as infrastructure asset owners.

The Waimakariri District Council has joined with the Timaru and Whangarei District Councils in the legal action, with a Statement of Claim filed last Friday.

The action has been prompted by the Government’s decision to ignore feedback from their residents on the Three Waters Reform, and disappointment at the Government forging ahead with legislation that will make it mandatory for councils nationwide to transfer control of their three waters infrastructure.

The legal action also seeks a declaration on whether it was unlawful for the Government’s public education campaign on the Three Waters Reforms to contain “incorrect or misleading information in regards to local council’s rights, obligations and duties”.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon says: “We have significant concerns that the Government is proceeding on the basis of fundamental misunderstandings of the democratic importance of its definitions of Local Government and asset ownership, and feel that this process will offer us a clear and shared understanding of our rights and obligations for future negotiations.

“These steps are our way of ensuring we’re continuing to advocate in our residents best interests.

“What we do agree on is that quality drinking water and better environmental outcomes are essential and support the new regulator and coming regulations,” he says.

“What we don’t support is the flawed, and now forced four entity model, when there are number of alternative and viable delivery models that would be supported by ratepayers across New Zealand.

“We believe each asset owner has the right to determine how best to meet those requirements.”

Mr Gordon is also sending a letter to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, on behalf of around 30 Mayors and councils across New Zealand, seeking a meeting to address the “now forced” water reforms.

“Across the Local Government sector there was near consensus that the model now being mandated wasn’t acceptable to councils or our communities.

“We are seeking to meet with the Prime Minister to express this view and seek more viable approaches to Three Waters Reform. I will make sure to keep the community updated with our progress.”