Tauranga's lead commissioner has instructed staff to share the council's concerns about the proposed Three Waters Reform online as the authority is warned to "stay close" to the community.
Tauranga City Council's Strategic, Finance and Risk Committee met today to discuss an update on the proposed reform, which seeks to overhaul the management and service of New Zealand's drinking water, stormwater and wastewater through four different entities.
Tauranga is proposed to be part of Entity B, together with 22 territorial land authorities from the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Manawatu regions. From this, a Waikato/Bay of Plenty Three Waters Reform Consortium has been set up and the group met on August 5 in Taupō.
Council director of city waters Steve Burton said two committees had been set up as part of this; one focusing on a technical response led by Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber, the other focusing on a political committee led by Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick.
Commissioner Shadrach Rolleston asked council staff what feedback had been received so far about Three Waters.
Burton told the committee there had been a strong message that local authorities need to "stay close" to their communities.
"Share everything we know at the time we receive it. What we don't know, be upfront about it."
Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said: "We are seeking to put the facts of the reform on our website. Included in that will be all the issues the commission has already identified and wants to raise with the Government," she said.
"These are: How do we protect against privatisation? How do we ensure there's local input and governance with an entity that covers a large region? How do we ensure our growth issues are going to be dealt with by a committee based in Hamilton somewhere? How do we ensure our Māori and tangata whenua are included in discussions?"
Tolley said the commissioners planned on having two pop-up meetings, one in Pāpāmoa and one in Greerton, "where people can ask questions of us and where we will answer if we can".
Tolley said there was still "not a lot of detail" about the reform and it was possible commissioners would hold more pop-up meetings in the future when more information was known.
It was important to find out what key concerns the community had about the Three Waters reform, she said.
On July 15, the Department of Internal Affairs announced a $2.5 billion support package for councils, which included $48.4m for Tauranga.
However, there was still a lot that was not yet known.
While councils in each entity's region would be the legislated owners of the water services on behalf of their communities, they would not be shareholders and would not derive dividends from that ownership status.
The committee received the report and recommended the council continue working with other councils included in Entity B.
The council is expected to publish what it knows so far about Three Waters and what concerns it has on its website within the next several days.
The issue of consultation with the community was raised last week at a Western Bay of Plenty District Council meeting in which ratepayer representatives used the public forum to demand greater consultation.
Mayor Garry Webber said at the meeting the council was not in a position to consult because it was still working on its response to the proposal, which itself was not yet modified and not expected to be finalised until after October.
Councils have until October 1 to respond to the Government with what, if any, modifications they suggest before it is potentially changed and returned for formal public consultation.