Two Hawke's Bay mayors say tens of millions of dollars in Government sweeteners to help support councils through Three Waters reforms feels like a "bribe".
The Government today announced a $2.5 billion package "to support local government transition through the reforms to New Zealand's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services".
Napier would get $25.8 million of that, Hastings $34.9m, Wairoa $18.6m and Central Hawke's Bay $11.3m.
But the reforms would mean the councils lose control of their water assets management to central Government where they would be lumped together with the lower North Island and top of the South Island.
Wairoa mayor Craig Little said the $2.5b is "a type of bribe" that likely has "huge strings attached".
"It's like a big carrot dangling for us to try and opt in. No doubt there will be huge fishhooks."
Napier mayor Kirsten Wise said it feels like a bribe, but wouldn't turn away money from the Government, "provided there is no strings attached".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta also said the money would "stimulate local economies while creating jobs and unlocking infrastructure for housing".
"The support package announced today will ensure that no council is worse off as a result of the reforms," Ardern said.
They said $500m was set aside to provide certainty that local authorities will be supported through the transition process and to ensure the financial impacts of the reform will be managed. The remainder of the package seeks to ensure councils are better off despite losing water assets.
Wise said councils need to know the rationale behind the funding and what they will be expected to do in return – information they have not been given.
"We've just had the announcement without any real detail about what conditions there might be, what the criteria might be around the use of the funding."
She said it adds to the "many" unanswered questions about water reform.
Other unanswered questions include how councils will be compensated for loss of "a significant amount of our assets" and "how the local community will still have a voice and how the governance board will be appointed when there are so many councils in an entity", Wise said.
Napier City Council had made no formal decision about opting in or out of the reforms as it feels it doesn't have adequate information to decide, Wise said.
Little said his council needed to look into "the ins and outs of what it all means".
"My argument has always been why couldn't they have just given us the funding instead of going through this whole Three Waters reform - that's been the issue for everybody, a lack of central government funding.
"If they'd done that we wouldn't have the threat of losing all our Three Waters infrastructure."
Little also believes the reforms are "the roadway to privatisation".
"They're saying it's very unlikely to be privatised, well, don't believe that, any Government can change legislation and we've seen that in the past and it will happen again."
Privatisation was also a concern for Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker, who said her council wanted time to consider all the information.
For CHB, the reforms "make some sense" because of the massive challenges facing the district's water infrastructure, she said.
"Today's announcement gives us the confidence that central government is a willing partner to ensure a strong and bright future for local government.
"I think it is vital that we have a future focussed on our people, our place and the things that make us uniquely Central Hawke's Bay.
The financial package announced today gives us an opportunity to invest close to $12 million to strengthen our communities' future."