Whangārei District Council withdraws from government’s three-water plan

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Drinking water, sewage and storm water are all in the three water reform plan.

The Whangārei District Council this morning tentatively rejected the government’s three-water restructuring plan.

Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said her council must make sure its taxpayers are not disadvantaged by being part of a national tri-water reform.

Mai said the council did not have enough information to make a judicious decision on this and therefore was withdrawing from the reform at this point.

WDC is required, under a memorandum of understanding signed with the government, to make a decision before tomorrow

on the advisability of participating or not in the national reform of the three waters.

At a formal WDC meeting this morning, councilors voted unanimously against the government’s plan to merge its three waters into a single entity across at least Northland – presumably by cutting off the supply of drinking water advice, in wastewater and stormwater to a new non-consulting entity. therefore.

Generations of Whangārei residents paid for $ 634 million for the district’s tri-water infrastructure, which now has a replacement value of $ 1.3 billion.

“With no information showing that our taxpayers will be better off by signing up, I think opting out is a better course of action,” Mai said.

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The WDC has made several attempts to obtain information from the Internal Affairs Department to help them make their decision before tomorrow’s date.

deadline.

WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said this included a request under the Official Information Act that failed to deliver results.

“… the Home Office refused a request from the Official Information Act (OIA) to provide the WDC with specific information that shows that taxpayers in Whangārei would be better off under the reform program,” he said. said Forlong.

The council complained to the Mediator that it was not able to obtain the required information.

Mai said her board was open to re-entering the process, if adequate information was provided to enable her to make an informed decision.

The WDC’s tri-water infrastructure and limited indebtedness place it in a position of strength, unlike most of New Zealand.

Analysis by the Water Industry Commission of Scotland showed the WDC to be in the top 25 percent of New Zealand’s three top-performing water organizations, Forlong said.

WDC advisers have spoken strongly against the option of continued participation of the three waters at this stage.

Cr Phil Halse said the government’s handling of the Three Waters restructuring was a sad indictment for its approach to local government.

WDC and its taxpayers had invested a lot of money in the infrastructure of three waters over a long period of time. Sewage discharges in the ports and waterways of Whangārei, from Bland Bay in the north to Langs Beach in the south, have been virtually eliminated.

A new entity combining the three water functions of WDC, Kaipara District Council (KDC), Far North District Council (FNDC) and Auckland Council Watercare has increasingly been reported. by the government.

Halse said Whangārei’s position contrasted with that of Auckland, where 18 of 22 beaches had recently been closed due to water pollution.

Kaipara Mayor Dr (SUBS: please use this honorary title anytime if your post uses honorary titles) Jason Smith after this morning’s meeting applauded the WDC’s decision to withdraw.

“We are 100% behind this,” he said.

But he said the template the government was likely providing to Northland District Councils this week to use as a basis to inform their membership / withdrawal decisions included WDC membership in the restructuring.

“The situation has now deteriorated into a French farce,” Smith said.

Smith said KDC would not meet its MoU decision deadline tomorrow because it was involved in meeting statutory deadlines to adopt its 2021-2031 long-term plan before the end of the fiscal year.

KDC would make its decision next Wednesday (SUBS: July 7).

He had “no idea” at this point as to what that decision was likely to be, given the situation.


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