A $761 million funding announcement last week has been met with enthusiasm and scepticism in the Bay of Plenty.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday the money would be available nationwide to upgrade "run down" water services, as part of the Government's three waters reform programme.
But only councils who opt into the programme and accept transferring assets to multi-region agencies will be able to access the millions - not those who pursue their own service delivery arrangements.
Ardern said: "New Zealand's public water infrastructure is run down and needs upgrading, but local government often doesn't have the resources needed to fix it."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick acknowledged the costs of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure were "a huge challenge for all councils".
"There has been considerable discussion and debate across the local government sector about future management."
However, she said the Government's funding was "a fraction of what is needed".
"The proposals, as they stand, would see significant changes to asset ownership and control ... so we will first need to determine whether this is a model that best serves our district and our residents and we haven't yet done that."
Tauranga City Council's city waters manager Stephen Burton said "any funding stream is welcome that keeps our works programme moving forward" and the Government's funding announcement was "encouraging".
"We have several large projects under way for water services to cater for the growth of our city."
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He said two further tranches of government funding were expected "but there is no clarity at this early time as to the size and priority for this future funding".
Burton said Tauranga's main challenge with water services was "coping with growth".
"We have good assets to cope with the existing loads on our systems but they need upgrading and adding to in order to support present and forecasted growth."
Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer said the district council was "excited to see the possibility of large-scale investment in the nation's infrastructure" but there was "quite a lot to unpack" to understand the implications of signing up to the government programme.
"The minister mentioned 'run down' services and while I am sure it is a factor for some councils, I think it will differ significantly in different places.
"Locally, there are other factors at play in our need to upgrade infrastructure including growth and enabling development into areas further from risks associated with climate change."
She said other factors, for wastewater in particular, included "eliminating contamination from septic tanks, increased discharge standards and community and iwi expectations around appropriate waste management and cultural impacts".
Kawerau District Council's finance and corporate services manager Peter Christophers said: "Any funding received from the Government to assist with the replacement of infrastructure means the council won't have to pass this cost on to ratepayers.
"As this is a small community, it will be a significant benefit for Kawerau," he said, but the council was yet to "formally consider" the new funding offer.
He said the water infrastructure in one part of Kawerau was "nearing the end of its useful life".
"Significant expenditure is going to be needed to replace this infrastructure ... Council has over the past two decades been setting aside reserves to fund these replacements, however, it is likely that costs are going to exceed these reserves."
Meanwhile, Western Bay of Plenty utilities manager Kelvin Hill said elected members would make the "final decision" over whether the district council would opt into the Government programme.
He said the district needed five wastewater plants spread from Waihī Beach to Ōtamarākau "but all these plants have associated costs for operation and maintenance ... reflected in the level of rates that Western Bay ratepayers have to pay".
Whakatāne District Council's general planning and infrastructure manager David Bewley said upgrading water infrastructure was "a large cost" for smaller councils including Whakatāne.
He said the funding opportunity would be "explored".
Bay of Plenty Regional Council regulatory services general manager Sarah Omundsen expected the funding would be targeted at city and district councils rather than regional councils.
"This announcement is unlikely to have a direct financial impact for regional council. However, it may mean that some local council projects that could help to achieve our goals for improved water quality and quantity management can be fast-tracked."
City and district councils are responsible for managing the infrastructure that enables water to be used and disposed of, such as water treatment plants, piping water to businesses and homes, wastewater systems that remove water once it has been used and stormwater systems to carry rainwater away.
The regional councils are responsible for issuing consents and managing consent compliance for water taken from natural sources and water discharged to land or water.
They also monitor water quality and environmental health.