Hamilton is joining a national programme to tackle fundamental issues in the way New Zealand manages water, wastewater and stormwater.
Hamilton City Council’s Strategic Growth Committee today unanimously agreed to join the first phase of the Government’s Three Waters Services Reform.
Joining means the Council is committed to engaging and working with Government and other councils to explore waters reform. Participation also allows Hamilton to access up to $17.46M in Government funding for economic stimulus programmes and investment in the waters sector.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate says the decision highlights Hamilton’s commitment to national and regional partnerships to improve health and wellbeing and to drive cost-efficiencies in the sector.
“We are fortunate in Hamilton to have high-quality, well-maintained waters infrastructure, managed by people who are recognised as leaders in their field. We’ve invested over the years and we’ve planned for future upgrades. But we recognise more investment is needed. I also know this kind of investment can be difficult for some councils throughout New Zealand because they simply do not have the ratepayer base to fund it.”
“In my view, the days of councils ‘going it alone’ when it comes to critical water infrastructure are over. The most responsible, cost-effective and cost-efficient thing to do is investigate regional approaches which allow us to combine skills and resources and get benefits of scale,” she said.
“Doing so will allow us to improve infrastructure, improve water quality, look after the environment and save money right across the country. This is one of the biggest opportunities our sector has had in some time and this Council absolutely must be part of this national debate or change will go ahead without us,” Mayor Southgate says.
She noted the investment enabled by the government funding will help drive job creation and provide an economic and social boost to Hamilton families. But she said it could not be used for business-as-usual.
“These projects are over and above what we are already investing and will be funded through the Government stimulus package, not through additional rates.”
Mayor Southgate says Hamilton is already working closely with its neighbours on shared service arrangements and supported ‘boundary-less’ planning for transport, water, wastewater and economic development.
The Government’s funding package provides an allocation of funding on a per-council basis, with an equivalent amount pooled into a regional fund to be distributed after discussion between the councils. Hamilton’s allocation was $8.73M, with a further $8.73M allocated to the regional funding pool.
The Waikato Mayoral Forum considered the Waikato’s regional allocation and decided regional funding will be allocated back to each Council on the same basis as the Council share, providing Hamilton with $17.46M.
“This MoU does not commit the Council to future phases of the reform programme – it means we accept the principles of the plan and will work with Government and our neighbours to share information and consider regional approaches. Over the next year we can assess the programme and decide our future involvement,” she says.
Staff will report back to the 17 September 2020 Council meeting to seek approval to lodge the stimulus package proposals, delivery plans and sign the funding agreement. The funding will support economic recovery through job creation and is to be applied to three waters infrastructure and service delivery.
The MoU opportunity is part of a $761M funding package announced by Government in July. The package offers post-COVID-19 stimulus for three waters infrastructure as well as supporting a three-year reform programme for the sector and the establishment of Taumata Arowai, the new Waters Services Regulator.