Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) welcomes the announcement of $761 million for Tranche One funding as part of the Government’s three waters reform programme, saying it provides a measure of financial assistance to councils as they consider the Government’s proposal on how drinking, waste and stormwater services are delivered in future.
The Government is seeking to develop a public multi-region model for water service delivery, with the final shape and characteristics still to be determined.
LGNZ and the Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM) are participating in the policy design process, led by the Department of Internal Affairs, to ensure the perspectives and interests of communities are given due consideration.
A key bottom line for LGNZ is that any reform must be voluntary, and this has been accepted as a guiding parameter of the programme.
“We welcome the Government’s inclusive and voluntary approach taken with the Three Waters Reform Programme, because it recognises that water is part of New Zealand’s broader infrastructure, planning and governance system,” said LGNZ President Dave Cull.
“Too often in the past water reform proposals have focussed exclusively on scale, without assessing the spill over effects for things like planning efficiency, infrastructure delivery, and governance and accountability of the system - or that there may be other ways of achieving the same outcome.”
“By welcoming local government voices into the policy development processes, we are now having a joined up conversation that looks not only at water delivery models, but also the wider systemic implications so that communities can make fully informed decisions.”
LGNZ notes that whether councils choose to participate in the Government’s reform programme or pursue their own service delivery arrangements, all councils will be required to meet legislated public health and environmental standards.
A series of DIA-led workshops, with support from LGNZ and SOLGM, will commence shortly, setting out the context for the intervention and outlining the three tranches of the reform programme.
Only those councils that opt into Tranche One of the reform programme will be eligible for the
$761 million in stimulus funding, which is tied to investments in three waters infrastructure.
Participation in Tranche One is expected to require councils to share detailed data related to their three waters infrastructure. Once more detailed policy work has been completed councils will be required to decide whether to participate in the binding second and third tranches of the reform programme.
“We congratulate the Government on the flexible approach they’ve taken. The funding package will enable councils to continue investing in water infrastructure as they consider the reform proposal.”