Mayors seek meeting with PM over three waters reforms

Published on 17 November 2021

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Mayor John Carter has joined mayors from around the country in asking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to pause the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme and give them greater input into proposed changes.

The decision to add Mayor Carter’s name to the joint request was made by the Mayor and Councillors at their Thursday 4 November meeting. The letter, which will be sent to the Prime Minister in coming days, asks that three waters reforms be put on hold until the new water services regulator, Taumata Arowai, is established, and the Future for Local Government Review and reform of the Resource Management Act are completed. The letter also urges the Government to work more closely with councils on alternate three waters options and ensure they are included in community engagements on the issue.

The decision to endorse the joint mayoral letter came after a report to councillors on a public survey on the issue conducted by Far North District Council. It found that most Far North residents were opposed to Government proposals to merge council-owned drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services across New Zealand into four water services entities.

The survey ran over four weeks and closed on 22 October. It was conducted by research company, Key Research, which contacted Far North residents randomly selected from the General and Māori Electoral Rolls. The Council also invited the wider public to participate. Key Research received 1047 survey responses; 168 from residents selected from electoral rolls, and 879 from the general public. Sixty-nine percent of those contacted directly by Key Research wanted the Council to opt out of the reform programme, while 21% wanted the Council to join the programme. Eleven percent had no opinion or were undecided. Eighty-five percent of the wider public said the Council should opt out, 13% said the Council should join the programme and 3% had no opinion or were undecided.

Mayor Carter says the results were unequivocal and cannot be ignored by the Government. “The main reason people gave for opposing the reforms is they didn’t believe they would deliver the promised efficiencies or lower costs. People were also concerned that communities wouldn’t have a strong democratic say under the proposed governance structures.”

On the same day the Council received the survey results, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that the Government would introduce legislation to amalgamate council-owned three waters services and participation in the reforms would no longer be voluntary for councils.

Mayor Carter says, even though opting out of the programme is now off the table, undertaking a survey had been a worthwhile exercise. “The results will strengthen our case in discussions with the Government and the Prime Minister.”

During the same 4 November meeting, the Council allocated $10,000 to a fund set up to help New Zealand councils lobby the Government on its Three Waters Reform Programme. Mayor Carter says a significant number of mayors across the nation have added their signatures to the letter requesting a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Results of the Council’s Three Waters Reform survey are available on the FNDC website here