Bay of Plenty leaders have cautiously welcomed a $2.5 billion Government package for Three Waters reform, but some want assurances Māori are included in decision-making.
One mana whenua representative says "the devil is in the detail".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the funding at the Local Government NZ (LGNZ) conference in Blenheim on Thursday.
Ardern said the package would ensure no council was worse off as a result of the reform.
Of the $2.5b, $500 million was set aside to "provide certainty" for local authorities that they would be supported through the transition process and ensure financial impacts of the reform were managed.
She said the Government wanted to acknowledge the shift in assets would impact council balance sheets.
"The remainder of the package seeks to ensure councils are better off despite this change to their asset base."
She said the funding allocated for each council was based on population, relative disadvantage and geography.
Tauranga, Rotorua, Western Bay of Plenty, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne and Kawerau councils would receive a total of about $160m between them, the largest allocation going to Tauranga.
Tauranga City Council Commission chair Anne Tolley welcomed the funding.
She said the council would soon adopt it's Long-term Plan, which recognised the need for "significant investment" in wastewater and stormwater improvements among other things.
"We will carefully consider the detail of this announcement, but our initial thinking is that the $48 million allocated to Tauranga should be utilised to promote the broader wellbeing of our community, as it has been mapped-out through the LTP," Tolley said.
Te Arawa Lakes Trust chief executive Karen Vercoe said the announcement looked good at face value but there was still little detail on how the reforms would be implemented locally and particularly how it would be done in partnership with iwi.
"The devil is in the detail."
She said there had been historical underinvestment in water infrastructure and she welcomed the investment as it signalled the reforms might not impact rates and could create employment for Māori.
"We want to see a lot of our people in those jobs, particularly those who've lost jobs in tourism."
Vercoe said she wanted to be assured Three Waters reform would truly be in partnership with iwi.
"We want to have real co-governance and co-decision-making ... as set out in Te Tiriti o Waitangi."
She also wanted clarity that reforms would not conflict with or undermine Treaty settlements.
Rotorua Lakes Council established a three waters committee on July 5, with a co-governance model with mana whenua, which Vercoe said was "a good step" but mana whenua wanted to be at council level.
"We don't want our decisions at committee level overturned at council level."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the Government's support package was welcome.
"Having certainty with regards to infrastructure investment, coupled with the support package could, for example, enable us to really progress – and potentially do more – in terms of housing for our district."
However, she said there was "still a lot to be considered".
"Key principles our council has taken into the reform discussions include the need to maintain local involvement in decision-making, and ensure iwi interests are upheld and strong partnerships with iwi are not compromised."
Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell said his council would be contracting an independent reviewer to compare Government and council figures, which Campbell said would determine whether the council opted in or out.
Campbell also raised concerns that the local iwi, Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau, had not been consulted by Government.
"I'm sceptical about the pūtea they're offering."
Western Bay mayor Garry Webber welcomed the assurance no community would be financially worse off from the reforms, but his council would take its time in considering its involvement.
He said water infrastructure and management was at a crossroads because the current system was not working.
"The financial incentive is just one piece of this proposed reform. There is plenty more information to be worked through before we have a robust picture of what the final outcome will be.
He said Western Bay's water infrastructure was in a "good state" due to major investment in the past.
Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner said while councils were told they could opt out of the three waters reform, this option no longer looked likely.
"The minister didn't say we couldn't opt out, but she said it is becoming more likely that won't be a fair and reasonable option with the data they are working to."
Turner said, with the removal of council's water assets, she believed council's role would be to focus on the "four well-beings" set by Government - social, economic, environmental and cultural priorities.
"The Government have been clear they want a partnership approach not a takeover approach, so I am heartened by that. What that looks like though is still quite unclear."
LGNZ president Stuart Crosby welcomed the support package, saying it set councils up to focus on community wellbeing.
"The package ensures no council will be worse off and every community will be better off under reform.
"This agreement and package signal confidence in local government as a critical partner, both for this reform and in the future."
Crosby said the three waters model would work best if everyone participated.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said communities needed to invest between $120b and $185b over the next 30 years to maintain, replace and upgrade aging assets, as well as account for growth.
The reforms would have the best chance of success if all councils participated, she said.
The reform programme was optional for councils, and on June 29 Whangārei District Council voted to opt out of the scheme.
The $500m was aimed at addressing financial impacts on councils such as the transfer of water assets, liabilities, revenue and staff to a new water services entity, a Government statement said.
The Government had proposed four publicly-owned water entities covering vast swathes of the country. They are scheduled to begin operating on July 1 2024. The entities would be collectively owned by the councils they covered.
The $2b was made up of $1b Crown funding and $1b from the new water services entities allocated to councils on the basis of a nationally consistent formula, the statement said.
"Councils will be able to ... focus on other local wellbeing outcomes associated with climate change and resilience, housing and urban design and planning, and community wellbeing.
The funding is in addition to $761m already announced for the reform programme, and $296m in Budget 2021 for the costs involved in the establishment and transition to the new water entities.
The Government expects the reforms will grow GDP by $9b over the next 30 years and create about 6000 to 9000 jobs.
In a statement on Thursday, National Party leader Judith Collins called the $2.6b package a "taxpayer bribe" and "slush fund" that exuded desperation.
"These reforms are poorly-conceived and will result in low accountability, bloated service entities, more bureaucracy, and messy cross-subsidising between neighbouring regions.
"The claimed scale benefits and cost-savings remain unconvincing."
Local MPs Todd McClay, Rawiri Waititi and Simon Bridges were approached for comment.
Cash injections for councils
The biggest: Auckland Council - $ 508.5m
The smallest: Mackenzie District Council - $6.2m
Rotorua Lakes Council: $32.1m
Tauranga City Council: $48.4m
Western Bay of Plenty District Council: $21.3m
Ōpōtiki District Council: $18.7m
Whakatāne District Council: $22.6m
Kawerau District Council: $17.2m