Four Hawke's Bay local authorities are moving swiftly with the flow by signing a crucial document opting into the first phase of a partnership with Government for water services reform.
The reform plans were announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the region just six weeks ago - this week Wairoa, Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay councils are unlocking $50 million of funding allocated to the region.
Councils now have a month to indicate how it will be spent, with $15.36 million in the hands of the Hastings District, $12.51 million allocated to Napier City, $11.04 million to Wairoa District, and Central Hawke's Bay District set for an $11 million share.
It comes with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding in the reform of three waters service delivery – for drinking, waste and storm water.
The MoU commits the councils to engage in the first stage, including a willingness to accept the reform objectives and core design features, the principles of working with Government and the three waters reform Steering Committee, to work with neighbouring councils to consider creating multi-regional entities, and to share information and analysis on their waters assets and service delivery arrangements.
If councils commit to subsequent stages, further three-waters Government funding will be available.
CHB Mayor Alex Walker says: "We all know the scale of the challenges that councils face to provide a good level of service and meet the new legislative requirements. Our discussions mean that, as a region, we are well advanced and ready to take this important step."
The MoU is voluntary and non-binding, but the funding is "very welcome" says Wairoa Mayor Craig Little.
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"The funding is a grant and does not commit us to the later stages of Government's three waters reform process," he said.
Each council will now enter into a funding agreement with Government, specifying how the money will be spent, and the conditions attached to the funding, with Napier Mayor
Kirsten Wise reiterating that councils have until the end of September to complete the funding arrangement.
The councils now have to make decisions on how to spend the money, and Wise said: "There is discretion to spend on operating or capital projects relating to three waters service delivery, provided the work supports economic recovery through job creation; and maintains, increases, and/or accelerates investment in core water infrastructure renewal and maintenance."
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the collaborative leadership by the councils has benefitted ratepayers, and it has been recognised by Government.
"We all share responsibility for ensuring our communities enjoy safe, reliable, resilient and efficient water services," she said. "We now opt-in to the first stage of Government's three waters reform process, armed with all of the information from our own review. "