Local Government New Zealand welcomes the establishment of a joint working group to resolve councils’ concerns with the Government’s three waters reform model.
The announcement comes after a two-month consultation period, during which almost all territorial authorities carefully analysed all aspects of the reform proposal and provided extensive feedback on the parts that need further refinement (see full local government feedback report). According to the feedback, while most councils recognise change is needed, they are opposed to the reform it in its current form.
LGNZ President Stuart Crosby says finding solutions to the sector’s concerns around governance, representation and accountability is critical.
“Our mayors across the country were deeply disappointed at the decision to mandate the reform for all councils. Councils approached the review in good faith believing they had an opportunity to consult their communities and opt out.
“As a sector we’ve always accepted the need for reforms that help deliver safer and cleaner drinking, waste and stormwater services to communities as well as better environmental outcomes. But we knew early on that the reforms had to be tailored for the New Zealand setting if they were to be effective and sustainable,” he says.
“That’s why we successfully insisted on a seat at the policy design table. We also sought the two-month consultation period with the local government sector so that councils could use their decades-long operational experience to help shape the reforms.
“We negotiated the Heads of Agreement to ensure that flaws in the current model could be addressed. The sector’s feedback has amplified everyone’s understanding of these issues.
“We applaud the Government for listening to our concerns, and for having the flexibility and openness to partner with councils and iwi/Māori representatives. We’re confident that together we can find workable solutions to the challenging issues of governance and accountability, local voice and planning, and protecting the interests of small communities.”
The Working Group is expected to report back in March 2022. This work will be complemented by the yet-to-be-established Planning Technical Advisory Group and the Rural Supplies Technical Advisory Group, which will refine other elements of the reforms.
“We acknowledge that developing policy of this scale within the Parliamentary term is challenging, but we’ve always believed it possible to deliver credible and robust outcomes if we’re willing to work closely together in new ways – which is what we’re doing now,” says Crosby.
“I would urge councils to positively engage in this process of finding solutions to the sector’s concerns.”