Mayors around the wider Whanganui region have responded with frustration and anger as the Government moves to mandate its Three Waters reforms.
Yesterday, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that all existing council-owned water infrastructure would be amalgamated into one of four entities to ensure the quality of the infrastructure remained high and costs to ratepayers low.
These entities will be operational by July 1, 2024, and look after freshwater, stormwater and wastewater services.
The decision to make amalgamation compulsory is a u-turn on the Government's previous position, which was that councils could opt out of the reforms if they wished.
Localised consultation on the proposed reforms also won't take place, with all consultation to occur at a national level through the select committee process.
But a new working group to determine the ins and outs of the governance structure will be established to hear from councils.
Whanganui region's four district councils - South Taranaki, Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitīkei - fall within Entity B.
One of the region's fiercest critics of the proposed reform, Rangitīkei mayor Andy Watson last month described the consultation process surrounding the reforms as "a disaster", and suggested Mahuta had dodged questions on whether councils would have the right to opt out of the reforms.
However, after yesterday's announcement Watson said he accepted there was almost an inevitability to the decision.
"It was a 50/50 whether the Government would mandate - I knew the minister wanted to, but it was whether Government were prepared to put it on the line," Watson said.
"This will likely be challenged around the country."
Watson said last month the council wrote to Mahuta, outlining concerns of councillors and the community, ranging from the dilution of accountability to the boundaries of the proposed entity.
Before the announcement, it was likely the council would have voted to opt out, Watson said.
"It would've been really nice to have understood all of the issues when it was first put up. A lack of facts, emotion and all sorts of other things have clouded the issue as well."
"I am disappointed, like virtually all of local government, that this is no longer a council decision. However, that's the way it is."
South Taranaki mayor Phil Nixon said he was "angry and appalled" at the decision.
"We were consistently told by the Government that there would be the opportunity for full public consultation on this hugely important matter," Nixon said.
"But now, and after the majority of councils have asked the government to pause and rethink, they have ignored us and taken any decision-making completely out of our hands.
"It's wrong, it's anti-democratic, and this Government seems determined to centralise everything."
South Taranaki District Council last month also expressed concerns about the workability of the four entities, as well as the consultation process.
"Our council will be letting the Government know our dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms; however, I'd also encourage every resident to contact their local MP to let them know what they think about the Hovernment's decision," Nixon said.
Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron was contacted for comment.