Changes to how water is managed in Kāpiti could end in it "turd degree burn" for ratepayers, says Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.
He said the proposal would see
The Government's Three Waters reform would roll Kāpiti's drinking water, stormwater and wastewater into a single entity servicing the east coast of the North Island, Horowhenua, Wellington region and the top of the South Island.
"My main concern with this proposal is that our ratepayers, who have invested heavily and proactively in our water services and are well positioned for the future because of it, will end up bearing the costs of an entity that will need to prioritise addressing failing infrastructure in other areas over any work in our communities," Gurunathan said.
"We are a rapidly growing district and our issues aren't that we lack the size or scale to do things well.
"It's always been access to funding and clear direction and focus that we need to make things happen.
"Bigger isn't always better and lumping problems together doesn't automatically fix them.
"The Government's key selling point seems to be that these entities will be able to borrow more than individual councils — is that the totality of the funding solution? Debt packaged and collected by an agency with a new name?"
The Three Waters reform would "lump" the council with "all the responsibility and accountability, but absolutely no control or influence", Gurunathan said: "Kind of like if I let you have my car but I'm still responsible if you crash it".
"Kind of like if I let you have my car but I'm still responsible if you crash it.
Gurunathan supported sharing governance with mana whenua but said iwi engagement was missing.
"My job is to advocate on behalf of our community and, while all the analysis paints a rosy picture of cost savings on the surface, the devil is in the detail for us.
"I'll be working with my councillors and council staff to understand the information dump over the coming weeks and to sort through whether this actually is beneficial for Kāpiti."
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the proposed four water entities across New Zealand would create an affordable system that ensured secure delivery of safe drinking water and resilient wastewater and stormwater systems.
Change was necessary, she said, because even conservative modelling showed household water bills could be as high as $1900-$9000 by 2051.
"Under our proposal for four providers those figures range from $800 to $1640, saving households thousands of dollars.
"It's estimated New Zealand will need to invest between $120 billion and $185b to maintain safe, sustainable and environmentally appropriate drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure over the next 30 years, costs that most local councils simply can't shoulder on their own.
"We have seen the effects of a system in crisis with fatalities from bacteria in drinking water, broken sewer pipes, poorly treated wastewater running into streams and rivers, no-swim notices at the beaches, regular boil-water notices, and lead contamination."
"As we undertake our economic recovery, these four entities will ensure the upgrade of infrastructure for our most precious natural resource, which will not only help rein in increasing costs for households but provide local jobs while contributing to regional economies.
"Without this change, communities are going to either face very large bills for water services; or infrastructure will continue to degrade with ongoing health and environmental consequences.
"Both of these outcomes are unacceptable."
Now, 67 councils provide most of the country's three waters services, a system that is in too many cases ineffective, inefficient, and not fit for purpose.
"Underinvestment, including deferred maintenance and renewals expenditure, has left a legacy of impending costs and poor services for future generations," Mahuta says.
"We will be making further announcements in the coming weeks, including a Three Waters Reform support package for councils and their communities.
"Now that councils have received this data they can now assess the impact of these proposed reforms.
"We now need to ensure that ratepayers and households understand the beneficial health, environmental and cost impacts so we can move forward with greater confidence."