Rangitīkei District Mayor Andy Watson has slammed the Government's Three Waters reforms in a social media broadcast to the district's residents, labelling the engagement process with councils and communities a "disaster".
The council is asking for public submissions on the Government proposal, which would amalgamate the district's drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure with 21 other councils in the North Island.
The Government is currently seeking its own feedback on the proposed reforms but that feedback is being sought from councils themselves - not the general public.
The wider reform would see councils lose direct control of their water entities to four amalgamated groups, with the goal of reducing the future cost of infrastructure, and improving the quality of the services.
The current proposal would see Rangitīkei join water service entity B, which includes councils as far north as Hamilton and Tauranga, as well as New Plymouth and Whanganui.
Rangitīkei is on the cusp of that boundary, meaning Manawatū District Council, of which Rangitikei holds a service-sharing agreement, would be in entity C.
As part of the council's engagement on the Government initiative, an online live Q&A broadcast was held by Mayor Andy Watson and council chief executive Peter Beggs on Friday.
It was during this broadcast that Watson outlined the importance of Rangitīkei residents having their say.
"I believe we have a moral and statutory right to engage with communities, not only around providing the information but in seeking feedback."
But precisely what the council is asking the public isn't clear, with no definitive answer on whether the district will even have the option to opt out and say no to the reforms.
Watson said the council "strongly suspects" the ability to opt out of the reforms won't exist.
He said local government leaders across the country have attempted to seek more detailed answers from Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, but these have fallen on deaf ears.
"I can distinctly remember hearing that Minister Mahuta's answer to this is 'the conversation has moved on since then. In other words, 'I'm going to dodge this issue'," Watson said.
Watson was confident there had previously been an opt-out position in the past.
The Rangitīkei mayor also criticised the pace of the proposal.
"I've been in local government for some time, and I've never seen anything approaching this. It is being shovelled at us at a rate of knots that is just difficult to process.
"The consultation process with our communities has been a disaster. We've seen the promo stuff on TV, and that's been met with distaste, from Local Government NZ, council and mayors."
Council chief executive Peter Beggs also raised concerns about the council's engagement with local iwi, saying they are an important stakeholder.
"Our consultation and work with mana whenua hasn't really had the depth that we, or our iwi leaders, feel it should have.
Beggs pointed to the Government's role in leading the consultation process, fearing it won't see enough engagement in local communities that are affected by the proposal.
As a result, the council has initiated its own engagement process, with a letter from the Mayor delivered to every household in the district, encouraging residents to complete a survey on the proposals.
"Council don't own these assets - the ratepayers do."