Wellington mayor Andy Foster is disappointed but not surprised the Government has moved to force through its Three Waters reforms.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed yesterday the Government will push ahead with its preferred water services plan to amalgamate billions of dollars worth of council-owned drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure and services into four regional bodies.
Foster said he was not surprised considering the minister has previously refused to rule out making reforms mandatory for councils, but he was still disappointed.
"It's a very convoluted governance structure and it doesn't really leave councils and their communities in a position of actually being able to influence what is done, what's invested, what's not invested and when.
"The key bit is the need for central and local government to continue to work together with iwi and involving our community as a whole to try and make sure we end up with a model that actually works for New Zealand," Foster said.
Mahuta has been at war with councils over the proposals. Councils are frustrated that some of their most valuable assets will be amalgamated into entities they have little or no control over.
She said work was under way to establish a working group of local government, iwi and water industry experts to work through the design of the new entities - including their particular governance arrangements.
Porirua mayor Anita Baker and Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Daran Ponter welcomed the Government's "all in" approach.
Ponter said the Government's decision was a bold step, but was required to address chronic under-investment and looming requirements across the sector.
"The mandatory all-in approach will provide greater certainty to New Zealanders about the delivery of drinking water, the management of stormwater and enables the sector to better meet increasingly stringent requirements around the discharge of sewage.
"It is good to see that the Government has listened to councils and is forming a reference group to work through outstanding issues related to accountability and representation."
Baker said residents and ratepayers were owed the truth.
"The truth is, without reform, the council does not have the resources or borrowing capacity to deliver the Three Waters to an acceptable standard. The cost of doing so is in the billions.
"Porirua City has already put aside $800 million over the next 30 years - and that's not even half of what's needed. How can we expect 19,000 ratepayers to foot a bill of that magnitude?"
Baker said the council would push for improvements to the proposal before it's enacted including stronger democratic mechanisms.