Last week, the Government announced the details of its proposed reforms for the Three Waters - drinking, waste and storm water.
The proposal is to move the ownership and management of water infrastructure from the 67 local councils who manage and own it, into the hands of four water services agencies, split regionally. The reforms will mean Taranaki's three councils will no longer own or manage pipe and water infrastructure. Instead, ownership will be transferred to a new entity, with Taranaki included in one covering Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty as well as the centre of the North Island, including Hamilton, Rotorua and Taupo.
In announcing the reforms, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said they would save ratepayers money, and result in better, safer services. A support package for councils would be announced in the next few weeks, she said.
Mayors and councils nationwide have had a mixed response to the proposals so far, with Whangārei District Council voting to opt out even before the reforms had been announced.
Taranaki's three mayors all say they are still considering the details contained within the Government's announcement.
Stratford District Mayor Neil Volzke says he is yet to be fully convinced by the projected savings described in the report.
"The suggested savings from economies of scale and efficiency gains seem very optimistic and will need a great deal of analysis before we make any decision."
He says he and fellow councillors, along with council staff, will need to take time to digest the information before reaching any final decision.
"The Government's proposed reforms are far reaching, with huge ramifications for small councils like Stratford. The amalgamation of water services into much-larger entities will inherently create a whole new set of issues. We don't need more bureaucracy, we need less."
Stratford's water infrastructure has performed well thanks to ongoing investment and strong future planning by the council over the past decade, he says.
"The Stratford District Council has invested well in our water services and overall they are in very good shape."
South Taranaki District Mayor Phil Nixon says while he and his fellow councillors are "carefully considering the details of the Government's announcement", he doesn't necessarily think bigger means better.
"I'm always wary when people claim centralisation will save you money and improve service. Bigger is not always better and personally, I think the benefits of consolidating water services have been overstated – the underlying assumptions certainly seem very optimistic."
The South Taranaki district is "ahead of the game" in some ways when it comes to investment in the Three Waters in the district, he says.
"South Taranaki District Council has spent many tens of millions of dollars on our water infrastructure."
The decision is a big one, with huge implications and complex issues, he says.
"We also need to have a better understanding as to how central government arrived at the figures it came out with and the rationale behind those calculations ... we have lots of questions still to be answered before making any decision about the reforms."
New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom says he, too, is "carefully considering the details" when it comes to the proposed Three Waters reforms. He says the date the Government has presented so far makes it clear the status quo can't be maintained, however.
"There is much to digest and consider. Based on the data presented it is clear the status quo is not an option as the cost to deliver to smaller communities does not look sustainable out to 2050 and beyond."
•Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to the CEO of Stratford District Council.