OPINION: Senior Wellington journalist Georgina Campbell's fortnightly column looks closely at issues in the capital.
The Government's Three Waters reforms are in trouble if not even Havelock North is convinced and Wellington City is looking at a referendum on the issue.
The Havelock North gastroenteritis outbreak is literally the reason reform is being proposed; meanwhile Wellington City is the poster child for the country's water infrastructure crisis.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is proposing to move the ownership and management of water infrastructure from local councils and into the hands of four water services agencies.
This is after a report by the Water Industry Commission for Scotland estimated between $120 billion and $185 billion will be needed over the next 30 years to bring water infrastructure up to scratch across New Zealand.
The reforms have so far been considered an opt-in or opt-out affair for councils.
But it seems the Government has a growing problem on its hands with too many councils not persuaded. Hastings District Council is one of them.
This is despite the inadequacies of water management in Havelock North making 5500 sick, resulting in the hospitalisation of 45 residents, and contributing to three fatalities.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said last month the council had already invested more than $82m million in safe drinking water since the Havelock North crisis.
She was in agreement about the Government's case for change.
But she was concerned one large entity, charged with looking after 21 councils and a million people across a large geographic area, would not meet the need of communities.
Instead, Hawke's Bay leaders want a regional approach.
But Wellington hasn't exactly shown its version of a regional approach to be particularly successful.
Wellington Water manages water assets for the Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington City councils, South Wairarapa District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.
The councils are all equal shareholders
Unfortunately, this has not prevented councils from presenting Wellington Water with funding envelopes for Three Waters investment over past decades.
This underinvestment in pipes has come back to haunt the councils of the day, especially Wellington City.
About 6.5 million litres of wastewater spewed into Wellington's harbour after a critical tunnel collapsed under the CBD.
To add insult to injury, a review of the failure found those managing the network effectively lost a report from as far back as 2004 identifying the corrosion that would eventually lead to the tunnel's collapse.
Then two sludge pipelines failed and took months to fix, geysers have popped up and flooded suburban areas, while sewage now appears on the streets.
Recommendations from Wellington Mayor Andy Foster's taskforce into Three Waters said the council should be actively participating in the Government's national water reform agenda.
Councillors also agreed to commit to the concept of an independent, publicly-owned, not-for-profit, water management and asset-owning entity governed and operated under a statement of intent from shareholding councils.
But now it turns out Foster is on the fence about the Government's proposed reform - refusing to publicly take a stance.
Meanwhile councillor Diane Calvert found enough support around the council table to instruct staff to investigate whether a local referendum could be held on the issue.
Wellington City Council does not need a referendum to tell councillors something they already know.
A recent residents survey carried out over February and March this year revealed satisfaction with Wellington City Council's decision-making had dropped to just 16 per cent from an already woeful score of 34 per cent.
But this does not necessarily mean the council needs to consult the public more, it just means they actually have to get on with it and make some decisions on the issues people care about.
Residents said they were annoyed with council in-fighting and vanity projects.
They complained about not being listened to and explicitly said they were unhappy about the state of Three Waters.
Wellington City Council and Hastings District Council don't have a lot of political capital to be challenging the Government's Three Waters reform proposal.
It's difficult to give credit to the argument for "localism" when it's individual councils historically serving their communities so poorly that's got the country into this mess.
To be fair to both councils, they have responded to their respective crises with more investment and a serious step-change in how they value water infrastructure.
But it's too risky to wait for every council in the country to have their "come to Jesus moment" on Three Waters. Lives are literally at stake.
The effect of too many councils opting out of reform will undermine the whole thing. A patchwork approach will not achieve economies of scale.
With so many councils lukewarm on the proposed reforms, Mahuta might have to call time on diplomacy.