Waipā District Council has taken another important step in its opposition to the Three Waters Reform as proposed, joining like-minded local bodies to design a workable solution.
Mayor Jim Mylchreest joined other mayors and chief executives representing the 32 member councils of Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori (C4LD) in presenting this plan to politicians at Parliament.
The 10-point plan for reform was presented to Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta and Department of Internal Affairs officials, as well as Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw, and Green MP Eugenie Sage. The group had already presented its models to the National Party and Act.
Jim travelled to Wellington to demonstrate Waipā's support for the C4LD plan and hopes the group will be listened to.
"Our community have given us a clear message that they do not support the Government's current reform model," says Jim.
"As a council, we don't support it, particularly the lack of community consultation.
"We are not being compensated for our assets, and we are losing control of our infrastructure. The current model of reform is flawed."
Jim says the reforms were hurting council's relationships with mana whenua and the wider community.
"We have worked hard to build relationships with mana whenua over many years, and this is being strained by our inability to be able to go out and consult on these reforms and have genuine conversations with them, and our wider community.
"Whilst our infrastructure in Waipā is up to standard, we understand there are a number of councils with a small rating base that are unable to meet new standards being proposed and we can see a need for a collective responsibility to assist in those areas."
Manawatū District Mayor and C4LD chairwoman Helen Worboys says the group is keen to work with all parties to ensure any reforms have the broad base of support needed for major long-term infrastructure investment.
"The proposals we've brought to the table enable the Government to deliver on all its aims, create opportunities for strong and lasting partnerships and deliver safe, sustainable and affordable water services for all New Zealand," she says.
"They enable us to build on existing partnerships and forge new relationships with mana whenua at a local level that consider co-design and partnership arrangements to acknowledge and enable Te Tiriti based pathways at a local and regional level.
"They also provide for the continuation of local influence and community property rights.
"We're confident that we're in line with the majority of New Zealanders.
"We've presented a reform framework that is directly supported by nearly half of councils in New Zealand and is aligned with the views of the majority of other councils, most notably Auckland representing 1.7 million people."
C4LD's 10 point proposal for compromise - supported by all members - reads:
1. Foundation principle - community property rights in Three Waters assets are to be both respected and meaningful.
2. The Government should agree to amend its current reform process and allow time for the revised approach to be reflected in draft legislation.
3. With respect to investment decision-making, asset owners should actively seek to initiate authentic discussions with mana whenua at a local level that consider co-design and partnership arrangements that acknowledge and enable Te Tiriti based pathways at a local and regional level.
4. In return, asset owners agree to commit to meeting health and environmental standards, once known, within an appropriate time frame.
5. The regulatory framework should specify a "backstop" provision that identifies a set of circumstances which would justify future Crown intervention if an asset owner was not making acceptable progress towards meeting those regulatory requirements.
6. Progress should be reported on annually by asset owners and be benchmarked across the sector.
7. To further incentivise sector progress, a formal process might be established that requires an asset owner to prepare a plan that would map out the steps it proposes to take to meet the required standards in a financially viable and sustainable manner.
8. A process to finance and allocate funds to areas that will require financial assistance be designed that is national in application and independently administered accordingly to objective and transparent criteria (this is consistent with the recommendation of the Productivity Commission in November 2019).
9. This subsidy scheme will be designed to meet investment shortfalls until such time as sufficient progress has been made. At which point the scheme will cease and asset owners will finance matters on a business-as-usual approach.
10. A sector-wide sector best-practice improvement process be created and membership made compulsory. (In a similar manner used to implement successfully the One Network Road Classification Framework and now One Network Framework in the road infrastructure area, and governed by Waka Kotahi and the Local Government Sector).
The full presentation to the minister outlining C4LD's framework for reform is now available at www.communities4localdemocracy.co.nz/ideas.