7 Jul 2022

Christchurch City Council is calling on the Government to re-think some fundamental aspects of its Water Services Entities Bill.

The Bill will establish four publicly owned water services entities to take-over the responsibility for providing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services across the country.

The Council’s submission, which is delegated to a sub-group of Councillors, will raise concerns about how the Government is planning to reform three waters services in New Zealand.

“Absolutely there is a need for change in the way that three waters services are delivered in New Zealand. However as a Council we have not supported the model that is being proposed currently,’’ says Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

“There is a lot of detail missing from the Water Services Entities Bill on how the changes will practically work, and we need to ensure that priorities are being made by the community. We are also very concerned that there is no clarity about how the water services entities and local government will co-exist or what the impact of other reforms will be.

“We will be raising a number of key points that we want the Government to address before it progresses any further with its reform programme,’’ the Mayor says.

The Council’s submission will call on the Government to delay the transfer of stormwater from Christchurch city to the new entities until further work is undertaken, acknowledging that the city has a unique and highly integrated stormwater system with land drainage and flood management.

“A lot of our ‘stormwater assets’ are things like wetlands and retention basins that are also parks and naturalised drainage reserves,’’ the Mayor says.

The submission will also seek reassurance that Christchurch City Council, as the territorial authority representing the largest population in the water services entity that will cover the South Island, will have an appropriate amount of representation in the new governance structure.

Clarity on the respective roles and responsibilities of water entities and local government is also critical, particularly in regards to important decisions at the forefront of community planning such as climate change, adaptation and land use.

The Council questions the inclusion of a clause in the Bill that allows the Crown to transfer the costs of the water reforms to the new water services entities. The Council is concerned the clause will saddle the water services entities with more debt, which will have to be paid off by the communities it services in the coming years.

The Bill provides insufficient clarity on whether Council debt related to three waters services will transfer to water services entities. If the debt does not transfer, Councils may be left to pay off debt for assets they no longer have control over. This is another significant concern that will be raised in the Council submission.  

Mayor Dalziel and a small group of Councillors will work alongside staff to produce the Council’s submission over the next couple of weeks.  When it is finalised, it will be published on the Council’s website.

“Public consultation on the Water Services Entities Bill is open until 22 July so there is still time for people to put in their own submissions,’’ the Mayor says.

Details on how to make a submission can be found on Parliament’s website.