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Water reform needs local input, says Councillor

Luka Forman
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Water tap  Pixabay

A Christchurch City Councillor is calling for consultation with ratepayers, before a decision is made on water reform.

The central Government has proposed water reforms that would involve moving ownership of water assets from councils to regional entities. 

Under the proposal, New Zealand would be divided into four entities, Christchurch being a part of entity D, which would encompass most of the south island. 

Council would have limited influence on this entity, merely being a part of a representative board, which would then appoint a selection board to choose an operational panel, Councillor Sam MacDonald said.

"There are so many degrees of separation here." 

The proposed reform would mean a loss of around $5 billion of public assets for the council.

"It would remove that local input and influence."

MacDonald said that giving away assets to an entity that the council would have little influence on would not be good for the city. 

"Christchurch ratepayers would be paying to fund pipe repairs in Bluff, that logically doesn't make any sense."

MacDonald said council needs to consult more with ratepayers to make a decision, and the government needed to provide more information to the council to do this.

"We can't even see the modelling that sits behind this or the modelling that is driving it."

The Canterbury Mayoral Forum has requested a pause in the reforms, to give more time for public consultation. 

It said that the reform was a once in a generation decision and communities need to engage with it. 

Councillor MacDonald was worried the government would mandate the reforms regardless of what councils have to say about it.

"That wouldn't be democratic and it certainly wouldn't be New Zealand."

Minister for Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, said without these changes, water services could be unaffordable for some in the next 30 years.

Mahuta said the current system is in crisis, pointing to bacteria in drinking water, broken sewer pipes and lead contamination as issues.

She said that the reform would create an affordable system that provides safe drinking water for everyone.