Water mandate opposed

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Ashburton District councillors have voiced strong opposition to government’s decision to mandate the Three Waters reform and will join with other councils to continue to discuss it further.

Councillors agreed last week that Ashburton mayor Neil Brown should put his name to a letter going to all mayors asking for a face-to-face meeting with Jacinda Ardern.

The letter has been drafted by Waimakariri mayor Dan Gordon and wants more time for consultation and more details around the reform.

Ashburton councillors have also agreed to explore joining other councils in examining a legal challenge to the water reform mandate through correspondence with Local Government New Zealand and Canterbury Mayoralty Forum.

Mr Brown said he was “disgusted” at how government had treated the Mid Canterbury community and were pushing the reform through in an undemocratic way.

“We told our community we would have proper consultation over the final proposal and whether to opt in or out. We can’t do that now.”

Council had played by the rules, opened up its books and had compiled a list of water reform questions, as requested by the government.

“We still haven’t received answers to those 17 questions and I’m community has been treated.

“I’m upset at the loss of the democratic process.”

Cr Rodger Letham agreed and said the district had been treated “shabbily”.

“It’s all been for nothing.”

Cr Stuart Wilson said there had been 68 pages of questions submitted by councils and no answers received.

There was far too little information available.

“I’m just so sceptical that they are able to handle it.”

Cr John Falloon said he had lost confidence in the consultation process and knew it would be mandated after strong opposition had been voiced by Auckland and Christchurch councils.

“It’s been sold to us on misinformation and assumptions that have not been tested properly

“No-one has done the homework on how it’s going to work.”

Cr Liz McMillan said she was “gobsmacked” by the mandate announcement.

There was a need to press pause on the reform process and a lot of work still to be done.

Cr Carolyn Cameron said the process had created an irreparable loss of good faith between local and national government.

The Three Waters reform is aiming to transfer the delivery of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater from local authorities to four public entities across New Zealand.

The Water Services Entities Bill is expected to be introduced into Parliament in early December, and the new system is expected to be in operation by July 2024.

-By Mick Jensen