A $3 million boost from Government for water services in the Hauraki District was announced with a word of caution from the council's chief executive.
The funding is part of a $761m government package offered to councils to help maintain and improve three waters - drinking water, wastewater, stormwater.
The financial investment is contingent on local councils opting in to the Government's wider water reform programme.
Hauraki District Council
says this is about developing a new regional model for water services across New Zealand.
Hauraki mayor Toby Adams says council entered into a Memorandum of Understanding and funding agreement with the Crown a few weeks ago.
"We agreed to accept a grant from the Government and also to participate in a reform process that will look at solutions to some of the challenges facing councils in delivering water services, such as affordability for our ratepayers," he said.
Council chief executive Langley Cavers says the Memorandum of Understanding and associated reform signal the beginning of some possible big changes to the future delivery of water services, and we can expect these changes to happen quite quickly.
"The Government has stated its intention that water services are to be delivered by regional or multi-regional entities to realise the benefits of scale for communities, rather than being delivered by local councils as they are now – and also that they expect this to happen within the next three years," he said.
"While there is undoubtedly a need for more government investment in infrastructure to meet improvements in freshwater standards, increase resilience to climate change and natural hazards, and to enhance community wellbeing, I have some reservations about the proposed regional model and the potential for our communities to be overlooked in favour of the bigger centres. We're certainly keen to stay involved in these discussions."
The council also approved a list of water related projects for the Crown to consider. If accepted, work must be under way by March 31 next year, and ticked off as completed within 12 months.
The mayor says the projects were prioritised using robust criteria.
"There were plenty of projects to choose from so to prevent it becoming a lolly scramble, we looked at things like environmental and cultural values, as well as local benefit and economic stimulation," he said.
Wastewater projects consistently floated to the top of the list due to the environmental and cultural impacts of getting things wrong in that area, and the importance of beefing up wastewater infrastructure to support growth.
In particular, upgrading wastewater pump stations, minimising the risk of overflows, and desludging Waihi's wastewater treatment pond, were bumped up to the top.
"Waihi's pond is currently more than half full of sludge, which reduces its capacity to support new development. Our ability to deal with wastewater is essential for growth," Adams said.
Other projects in the running include upgrading Waihi's Wellington St pump station, a new screen at the Paeroa Junction Rd sewage pump station and improvements to the intake for the Kerepehi water treatment plant.
On the Coromandel, TCDC had already committed to spending nearly $4.8m in addition to the existing $16m funding in the current Long Term Plan to upgrade 10 water treatment facilities across the district.
The district has 11 water treatment plants - nine in towns and two rural supplies - and almost all failed to meet criteria under national drinking water standards.
Council says "fails" in the report weren't around water safety but rather non-compliance with the testing regime.
Already challenged with the affordability of so many plants, the average daily use of 13 million litres per day raises to 25 million litres per day in peak summer.
Last year Whitianga's new $2.8m water treatment plant at Moewai Rd was the first plant to be upgraded.
A ribbon cutting by mayor Sandra Goudie was held last month on the Tairua plant upgrade, with Pauanui due for completion and Beverley Hills Water Treatment Plant in Whangamata starting last month.
This is year two of a three-year project to upgrade 10 water treatment facilities.
- TCDC's Water Demand Strategy is out for public consultation.
They'll be seeking further feedback about specific projects related to future proofing water supplies in our consultation for the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan early next year.