As councils across the country are finishing the feedback process on the Government's Three Waters Reform proposal, Waikato District Council is reflecting on its own reform that has been in place for a couple of years – its partnership with Watercare.
The council has been focused on improving the delivery of the district's water services for some time, trying to distribute drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure and services in the most cost-effective way for ratepayers.
In October 2019, WDC began contracting its three water services to Watercare. The partnership enables the council to maintain ownership of the water assets, while Watercare manages the infrastructure above and below the ground and is governed by an independent group of trusted professionals, the Waters Governance Board.
The Governance Board monitors the progress and subsequently the delivery of service, and provides strategic input.
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Waikato District mayor Allan Sanson says: "Watercare is a fantastic provider... I am proud of the decision to contract the water services to Watercare. This worrisome area of the business doesn't keep me awake at night anymore as I know it's in good hands with competent directors. We trust the experts and they are reliable."
Through the partnership with Watercare, the Meremere wastewater treatment plant was able to be upgraded. Within two years Watercare procured and built a high technology Membrane Bio-Reactor (MBR) plant which will bring the plant to modern standards.
In the same timeframe, Watercare has also renewed Waikato District Council's wastewater discharge resource consent for 35 years with Waikato Regional Council.
"Our model worked exceptionally well... and we would be sad to see the relationship with Watercare end [if the Government's Three Waters Reform comes into place]," Sanson says.