Waitomo on board with national water reforms
25 Aug 2020, 12:00 PM
Waitomo District Council (WDC) is taking up national financial stimulus to improve the way Waitomo delivers water, wastewater and stormwater.
At today’s WDC’s monthly council meeting, elected members unanimously agreed to participate in tranche one of the Three Waters Services Reform through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Crown.
The Three Waters Reform aims to significantly improve the safety and quality of drinking water services and the environmental performance of drinking water and wastewater systems across New Zealand.
Joining allows WDC to access up to $3.5 million in targeted infrastructure funding for investment in the water sector. It also means the Council is committed to engaging and working with the Government and other councils to explore opportunities to improve three waters service delivery.
Chief executive Chris Ryan says signing the MoU opens up significant funding to help WDC address the broader challenges facing the delivery of water service.
“It’s a sizeable amount which we wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. To put it in to context we typically invest $1.3 million a year across the Waitomo District for water asset renewals and improvements, so we can do a lot with this money over and above the usual ratepayer contribution.”
The funding is part of a $761 million funding package announced by Government in July to help stimulate the economy post-COVID-19. The funding needs to be used on water projects that are over and above what WDC already has planned.
“Currently we’re responsible for investing in our infrastructure and delivering our own three waters services, the cost of which makes up a large proportion of the annual rates bill for town residents.
What the final form of the reforms will look like is still to be decided. By signing up it allows us to be involved in decisions that will impact how water and wastewater services are funded and delivered across New Zealand for future generations. We’ve invested heavily in our waters infrastructure over the past ten years, so any reform needs to take that into account as well as being beneficial to our ratepayers in the long term.”
Participating in first tranche won’t commit WDC to further participation in the reform programme. At the end of tranche one WDC can ‘opt out’ without penalty.
“The MoU means we accept the reforms principles and objectives and will work with Government and neighbouring Councils to consider regional approaches, during this time we can assess the programme and decide if we will be involved in the future” says Ryan.
Staff will report back at the September Council meeting to sign the funding agreement with delivery plans due by the end of October.