Far North Mayor John Carter is outraged following the Government's announcement to mandate the contentious Three Waters Reform Programme yesterday.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed the reform would go ahead which would see the creation of four publicly owned water entities across the country by 2024.
She announced the case for change was too compelling to ignore and was needed to ensure all New Zealanders had access to affordable, long-lasting drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure.
"It is clear that without the establishment of these publicly-owned entities we will continue to see a frail network and contaminated water in many communities," Mahuta said.
"To delay will only push the problem on, increase future household costs and put livelihoods at risk.
"These reforms have been long signalled and in our manifesto we committed to tackling big issues that others have long neglected in order to future-proof New Zealand."
According to the minister, several Far North drinking water supplies did not comply with the Health Act or meet the drinking water standards in 2019-2020.
This was made even more critical by frequent drought and water shortages during summer periods.
Mayor Carter has been steadfastly against the proposed reform, along with many other mayors around New Zealand.
He said he was outraged by the decision and in particular how Minister Mahuta had used a Far North private water supply as an example of water quality across the district.
"It's absolutely outrageous the minister would mislead the public by using an example of a Far North location which has to boil its drinking water as representative of FNDC water," Carter said.
"It's a total misrepresentation of the situation and anyone listening would think that FNDC is completely hopeless.
"There are around 20 council water supplies including the likes of Kaitaia, Kerikeri and Kaikohe, which are all council public water supplies that comply with government standards."
Mayor Carter said the community had expressed concerns about not being adequately consulted regarding the changes.
"We will continue to work with local government New Zealand and with other mayors around the country because while we are not against reform, we don't accept this proposal that has been mandated by the Government," Carter said.
"We believe that local government and more importantly, the community, have a right to have a say and the structure they're intending to put in place takes away the voice of the people.
"This Government has not sufficiently consulted with iwi, with business, with sporting clubs or the community as a whole."
Stuart Crosby is the president of Local Government New Zealand and said the organisation did not support making the reform a legislated opt-in for everyone or the removal of the decision from councils' hands.
"We have continually made this clear to the Government and will be doing so again publicly today," Crosby said.
"It's been very clear for some time the Government was determined to enact the three waters reform, which is why we've pushed so hard to make changes to the proposed model while it was being developed."
Crosby went on to say the sector agreed the current model needed significant work and the issue of water was at the heart of concerns about ownership and control of water assets.
He said the announcement had generated significant questions regarding public and community consultation.
"We will continue to press the Government to produce factual, evidence-based material that will moderate the conversation," he said.
"We believe they are listening and are confident this is under way."
It is estimated $185 billion is needed to fix, upgrade and maintain New Zealand's water services over the next 30 years, to ensure critical water infrastructure is maintained.
"New Zealanders simply cannot afford to follow the status quo facing costs of between $1900 and $9000 over the next 30 years, depending on location," Mahuta said.
"Under reform proposals with four entities, those figures significantly reduce to between $800 and $1640, saving each household thousands of dollars."
Work is currently under way to establish a working group of local government, iwi and water industry experts to work through elements of entity design.
The group will work through the enhancements to entity design and look at the governance and accountability arrangements of the entities, as well as provide an opportunity for public participation and consultation.
"It is a bottom line for the Government that the entities remain in public ownership," Mahuta said.
"We will continue to work with councils and ensure that local participation is evident in the critical next phase."
The Government has allocated $2b "better-off" funding to councils to invest in community wellbeing following reforms, which includes $35 million for the Far North District Council.
For Northland, the reforms are expected to see the regional economy grow by an additional 134-210 full-time equivalent jobs and a 4.9 per cent to 7.9 per cent GDP increase (or $405.1m – $649.9m in net present value terms).