Council has concerns over water reform

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INVERCARGILL city councillors raised concerns about the possibility of the government forcing all councils to join its Three Waters reforms.

The proposal would move management of drinking, waste and stormwater systems from council hands into four regional water authorities.

Council infrastructure group manager Erin Moogan gave a verbal update to councillors on Tuesday during the infrastructural services committee meeting.

She said they would need to make a decision about the matter in the next months and asked councillors what information they would like to have from the Government in order to make the decision.

Deputy Mayor Nobby Clark highlighted independent advice from Morrison Low, which overlooks the situation of Southland and Otago, and said the Invercargill City Council could make a “good case for opting out” the reform.

He said one of the issues of the reform was that those councils which had done well in investment in the past or having borrowing capacity would subsidise those who had not.

Invercargill city was in a better position with its water infrastructure than many councils, he said.

Cr Alex Crackett agreed and said she felt uncomfortable with the approach.

“I don’t disagree with the Government. The principles of the Government are clear – you should be able to have access to clean drinking water, no matter where you go, throughout the country.

“I don’t dispute that but it’s the way in which it’s been almost imposed on us that I’m uncomfortable with.”

Other councils had chosen to not be part of the reforms and she did not see how it was possible to achieve the Government’s goal. She was worried it would force everybody to opt in.

Cr Ian Pottinger also said the Government would need to make a change on councils’ Engagement Policy Act, as it needed to consult the community in order to make a decision to change its services.

Ms Moogan said she would seek clarification from the Government and a report would be prepared.

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