Taupō district mayor David Trewavas says he has "some unanswered questions" about how the Government's proposed Three Waters reforms will be managed.
The proposal for change is that four new entities to manage drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) would be set up covering the whole of the country. These entities would take over management of the three waters infrastructure currently managed by councils.
For the Taupō district, this would mean the Taupō District Council's water assets (and debt) would be taken over by a new entity that would include all of the Waikato Region (including Hamilton), Bay of Plenty Region (including Tauranga and Whakatane), Taranaki, and parts of Ruapehu, Whanganui and Rangtikei Districts.
Mr Trewavas said the Government believed it had established a case for change based on the money needed over the next 30 years to upgrade and manage water infrastructure to meet increasing standards and replace or repair ageing infrastructure, and agreed that everyone in New Zealand should be able to expect clean, safe drinking water and a healthy environment.
"This has always been central to the way the Taupō District Council has invested in our assets, and will continue to be the key driver of all future investment decisions.
"I do, however, have some unanswered questions about the Government's proposals," Mr Trewavas said in a statement.
He said those questions were:
■ How governance of the new entities would be set up to ensure that Taupō District retained its voice over its assets, and that local priorities and development patterns were provided for across the district's large areas
■ Whether ratepayers would be better off financially as a result of the proposal
■ What the impact of the change would be on the council organisation that remained after the change, and what local government would look like in the future
■ Whether bigger was actually better, and whether the efficiency assumptions being made were realistic
■ How three waters assets could be separated from our other assets - for example, Taupō town's many gullies used for recreation were often also stormwater reserves.
Councils have been given August and September to consider all of the information and implications of this proposal. Mr Trewavas said there was a lot of detailed information to go through, and he and the other councillors would work through it over the coming weeks.
Mr Trewavas said he was worried about the reforms being made compulsory.
"To date, the Government has made it clear that councils could decide if they wished to opt in or opt out of these reforms. I fear that they are beginning to change their mind about this and are starting to talk about it potentially being mandatory. I would see that as a totally unconstitutional decision.
"The assets that they are talking about have been paid for by communities, not by government, and as such it must be a voluntary thing. I will certainly resist any move towards compulsion."
Mr Trewavas said government had to give councils the ability to consult with their communities before they made a decision on whether to support and opt in to the reforms, or not.
"I am aware of other mayors calling for a referendum on the matter, and I support that call. These are important decisions, and I believe that you, as the owner of the assets, must have the ability to have your say about what the future looks like. To me, that is the bottom line," his statement concluded.