Do we need a different approach to dealing with three waters? – Yes
Does the current proposed structure to deal with three waters provide the confidence that communities will be heard? – No
The three waters services, drinking water, stormwater and wastewater, are essential infrastructural services for many New Zealand citizens. Government (both central and local government) are responsible for ensuring these remain safe, effective and sustainable services.
There is evidence that for decades there has been significant under-investment in the three waters infrastructures for many NZ settlements. This under-investment may have been used to help balance short-term political objectives within the funding mechanisms available to councils. Exhausting assets beyond their effective lifespan, has led to instances of infrastructure failure.
Given the size of the underinvestment, it is now clear that we need to think differently about the three waters. The funding for improving and repairing these long-term infrastructures, should not be compromised or prejudiced by the three yearly electoral cycle and especially when those changes run contrary to public interest.
The current proposed structural approach to three waters is raising many questions and undermining confidence that it will make a real and tangible difference.
Christchurch has already demonstrated that situations where there can be effective and necessary integration of local community needs and expectations with three water infrastructure design and operation. Examples include the Styx Living Laboratory Trust and the Ōpāwaho Heathcote River Network. Both are impacted by the local stormwater infrastructure. It is important that the ‘local voice’, the passion and knowledge for local issues is engaged and listened to.
An expected pricing strategy for the new entities has not yet been revealed. It is clear however from the stance the government is taking that, in one way or another, the full cost of service provision will be met by users.
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