Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said the announcement of $58.6 million for Hamilton to support the Government’s water reforms is “a good start” but more discussion will be needed.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced funding assistance for councils today (15 July 2021) as part of the Government’s Three Waters Reform programme. Hamilton City Council will be eligible for $58.6 million in new funding support, part of a $2.5 billion Government package to support changes to the way drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services are delivered.
Councils will be able to use this funding to support the three waters service reform and other initiatives around climate change and resilience, housing, and community wellbeing. The funding is not to ‘buy’ waters assets from councils; the Government has been clear the assets will remain in public ownership.
Southgate said Hamilton City Council had long since accepted the case for change in the way water was delivered. She was heartened Hamilton’s discussions with Government to date had been reflected in today’s announcement and said the city was now considering the “detail within the dollars”.
“There are still plenty of unknowns, that’s how reform works and there is a long process ahead. But councils must be courageous and must step up and be part of this reform conversation. That’s what Hamilton has done and we will continue to do that,” she said.
“Providing a sustainable three waters services is crucial and what we do now will make a difference for generations to come. But the costs for any reform must not fall on today’s ratepayers. Hamilton has been very clear on that and Government has listened. These are Government reforms and the cost needs to be funded by Government,” she said.
“So today’s financial package is welcome and $58.6 million is a solid sum of money. It might not be as much as Hamilton would have liked – we will always want more – and there will be ongoing discussions with our Government partners about that.”
“But that money is likely to hasten how quickly we can address key issues in our city like housing and environmental initiatives and other long-term priorities.”
Southgate noted the funding package would also act as an economic stimulus. She welcomed the Government’s assurances that all water assets will remain in public ownership and that no council – large or small – would be worse off as a result of the reforms.
“Keeping our assets in public ownership is a bottom line and that has been reflected in the announcement today. But the reform has got to be a partnership, so as Mayor, my focus now will be on getting the absolute best deal for the city. Today is a good start, but there is a lot more conversation to come.”