Local Government New Zealand welcomes the Government’s focus on drinking water reforms, but is urging officials not to shut the door on innovation by pursuing a policy of mandatory aggregation as a silver bullet fix to challenges in the three waters space.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta released a Three Waters Review cabinet paper today which looks to reshape the drinking water regulations and explore different water service delivery options.
LGNZ President Dave Cull has welcomed the initial focus of the Three Waters Review paper, saying it provides a pathway to better drinking water regulation, but noted that further discussion is needed around the service delivery options.
“The prioritisation of drinking water as the first target of reform is welcomed by the sector. We’ve long said that we need to focus on drinking water first, as that is where the biggest issue is, and that we need to get the regulation right,” says Mr Cull.
The paper also proposes that the Minister of Local Government report back in late 2019 with detailed policy proposals for service delivery arrangements, following further analysis and engagement on the following high-level options, one of which is mandatory aggregation. LGNZ opposes mandatory aggregation, as set out in the Three Waters Position Statement released last week.
“Although New Zealand is small, we’re a highly diverse country, and we need tailored policy making to tackle the array of challenges our communities face. Mandatory aggregation is one-size-fits-all policy making that doesn’t recognise this diversity,” says Mr Cull.
“To be crystal clear, we don’t oppose aggregation. We accept change is needed – our 20th century service delivery model cannot cope with current and future population and land use pressures. However we need to look at all the options available, rather than looking for a silver bullet fix.”
“Water provision is extremely complicated, and as the owners of the three waters assets, it’s vital that central government engage and utilise our knowledge to make sure that any decisions are affordable and will have a tangible, positive impact on water quality.”
The first tranche of work, due June 2019, will also look at the role of regional councils’ in enforcement of environmental regulation.
“Regional councils are currently undertaking work to enable national reporting on compliance, monitoring and enforcement, and we want to be involved in any discussions about moves to shift the boundaries of regional councils’ responsibilities.”
“We look forward to continuing to work with the government on the Three Waters Review, and utilising our extensive, data-led evidence base to inform policy developments.”