Water  |  9 Dec 2021

Christchurch City Council has agreed to add its signature to a partnership of councils opposing the Government’s mandated approach to three waters reform.

The Council today resolved to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work cooperatively with at least 21 other co-signing councils to convince the Government to reconsider plans to reform water services across New Zealand.

The Government is moving forward with legislation to transfer control of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure from 67 councils nationwide to four independent entities. One entity would cover 21 South Island councils, including Christchurch.

Deputy Mayor Andrew Turner, who will represent Christchurch City Council on the MoU partnership’s oversight group, says it is important councils raise their voices now to advocate for a better approach to reform.

“Christchurch City Council is not opposed to reform; we accept there are huge infrastructure challenges and financial pressures across the country in relation to meeting new safety and environmental standards for drinking water and wastewater.

“However, we do not accept that the model for reform being mandated by the Government is the right one.

“Like many councils we called for a pause and a reset in the Three Waters Reform Programme, in order to properly explore other options to achieve the Government's objectives.

“That request was unsuccessful, and the Government said councils and communities would no longer have a say about whether to be a part of the new entities; it would be mandated. Since then we’ve seen an outpouring of opposition from local government leaders and members of the public who feel they haven’t been heard and who feel alternatives have been overlooked in favour of a flawed model.

“We look forward to working in partnership with other local councils in an effort to convince the Government not to proceed with its mandated approach to three waters reform,” adds Deputy Mayor Turner.

In signing the MoU, which is not legally binding, councils agree to engage with their communities and the Government to reach an agreement on a reform package that can appropriately meet all parties’ objectives.

Christchurch City Council will also contribute $20,000 in funding plus a $2000 contingency towards the MoU partnership’s advocacy objectives, to be held in trust and administered by Timaru District Council.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel abstained from the vote on the basis that, with the full support of the Council, she would continue working on the governance and accountability working group set up by  Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to consider Councils' feedback on the three waters reform model.