Hamilton City Council has unanimously endorsed an approach to let Hamiltonians have their say on Government’s Three Waters Reform.
Council discussed revised consultation options for the wider Three Waters Reform programme, following Government’s decision to delay the introduction of legislation. The Water Services Entities Bill sets the framework for creation of four new entities to manage water services in New Zealand. The entities would take over operations of water, wastewater and stormwater services currently managed by 67 councils.
Last week Government announced the legislation would not be introduced before Christmas, as originally planned, and is now expected after 28 February 2022. Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says the delay allows a working group to consider governance, representation and accountability arrangements in the proposals, and recommend any changes, prior to the Bill’s introduction.
Mayor Paula Southgate said Council has always strongly advocated for the community to have a meaningful say in the reform programme.
“This is Government’s reform and there will be consultation through a select committee process next year. But we want to make sure Hamiltonians have every chance to give their views, not only to Government but to Council to help inform our submission.
“I think most people would agree the high-level outcomes sought by the reforms are great – better water services, better environmental outcomes, better planning for growth and more efficiency – but the detail needs work and Hamilton City Council has been clear it does not accept the reform model as it stands.
“This is a massively complex issue and I am pleased the Minister has given the working party time to consider feedback from councils and consider changes. That is what we wanted.
“I know our community will have strong views and our Council is united in giving every opportunity for those views to be heard,” Mayor Southgate said.
Council will undertake a full public engagement and consultation process to align with the Government’s consultation timeframes. Legislation, and the select committee timing, is expected in the first half of 2022.
At today’s meeting Council also endorsed a submission to Government, supporting development of an economic regulator for water providers. If implemented, the regulator would provide new safeguards to protect consumers and ensure investment in water services was sustainable. Legislation to introduce the regulator is anticipated in 2023.