I don't know about you, but for me taking money out of my left pocket and putting it in my right pocket never made me any better off. Here is a gem of an example that does just that.
At the moment, the hot topic in local government circles is the Three Waters reforms. In last week's column, I referred to the well-received government $2.5 billion support package that will be distributed among councils to ensure that no council is "worse off" after handing over all drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to a new multi-regional entity. Stratford District Council's share of the fund was $10.2 million and like many other councils concerned about the transparency of the decision-making, we are being cautious about the whole process.
Inherently and from experience I know that, especially in politics, the devil is often in the detail and after having a week or so to understand the volume of information released to date, a perfect example has been highlighted.
On July 15 a written statement released by the Department of Internal Affairs confirmed the $2.5b funding support package. Within the same statement, there was a section explaining where the money was coming from. But much to the surprise of many, the assumption or impression that the Government was fronting up with all the cash was found not to be the case. In fact, central government is providing only $1b of the package and the remaining $1.5b will come from the new entities themselves. Just like in a magical trick, something disappeared and the golden glow arising from the pile of money suddenly dimmed.
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Obviously, it begs the question, where will the new entities get their money from? Given that today's ratepayers and the new entities water consumers are the same people, doesn't this simply mean that ultimately we will be funding our own support package to the tune of $1.5b? Or put another way, if we opt into these reforms, of the $10.2m the Stratford District Council will receive in funding support, around $6m will be sourced from the new water entity. This will come from its customers and as a customer of the new water entity, this means you.
The devil is in the detail, right?
On a different subject and a more positive note, was the announcement of our Citizens Awards for 2021. It is definitely one of the most enjoyable activities to be involved with and this year's recipients have contributed to the community wellbeing in a really diverse way. The Stratford District only has a population of around 10,000 people, meaning that clubs and organisations tend to be quite small in numbers that in turn suggests a heavy reliance on volunteers among their memberships.
A national survey undertaken some years back placed the Stratford District among the best for volunteer hours per head of population and that has continued. This year's winners Hilary Jane, Alan Manning, Raewyn Rooney and Mike Walsh are great examples of people who are generous with their personal time and help make this a better community. Congratulations to each of the Citizens Awards recipients, present and past.