Water  |  27 Oct 2021

The Government’s decision to push ahead with a ‘flawed’ model for the delivery of three waters is extremely disappointing and robs communities of a voice, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says.

The Government announced that it will introduce legislation to set up four independent entities to control drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (known as three waters) as outlined earlier this year.

One entity will cover 21 South Island Councils, including Christchurch.

 “While Christchurch has acted in good faith throughout the reform process, today’s announcement shows that the Government has been fixated on one model of delivery from the outset,” Mayor Dalziel says.

“The Government gave us and other local authorities just eight weeks to analyse the proposed model for reform – a model that strips local government of one of its core functions.

“The Government then spent just three weeks analysing the feedback provided by 67 Councils. This feels very much like pre-determination and a breach of natural justice,’’ Mayor Dalziel says.

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

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

“Christchurch has invested heavily in its three waters infrastructure and our communities are relying on us to fulfil our commitment to having an unchlorinated drinking water supply by seeking an exemption from the chlorine mandate which has been put in place.

“The model the Government originally put forward did not allow us to insist that the new water entity pursue and maintain an exemption. The Cabinet decision released today outlines a way for us to continue to seek an exemption and, once granted, for the entity to continue to provide chlorine-free drinking water, and to consult with the communities about further exemptions.

"We are pleased the Government has listened to us on this point and made that concession.

"However, we also made it clear in our feedback that the delivery of stormwater services should remain with the Council. The Crown thinks that stormwater is managed in pipes, whereas ours is managed in an integrated way, through wetlands, floodplains and natural landscapes. We are not prepared to compromise that integrated approach.

“Today’s announcement takes the decision out of our hands, but we will continue to voice our concerns to the Government through the submission process. We will also be strongly encouraging our communities to express their views,’’ Mayor Dalziel says.

The Government has announced it will set up three working groups to refine some elements of the reforms.

One of the working groups will focus on representation, governance and accountability arrangements and another will focus on the interface between the reforms and the resource management system. The third working group will focus on transitioning rural community supplies.

*Note, this story has been updated to reflect new information that has been provided.