Last Thursday the Water Services Bill went through its Committee Stage. The Third Reading is likely to happen this week.
The National Party’s supplementary order paper, calling for those who supply 30 connections or fewer to be exempted, was defeated. (Federated Farmers had suggested an exemption for supplies to 50 people or fewer.)
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta quoted in the House some sentences from a letter to her sent by Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard. For the record, and general interest, the full letter to the Minister is below. (Note, the sentence in below below, was also in bold in the letter sent to the Minister).
21 September 2021
Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Local Government
Thank you for your letter of 3 September 2021 following up on our meeting of 31 August to discuss the Water Services Bill’s implications for rural water supplies.
I very much appreciated the constructive meeting and the assurances you and your officials made on the requirements for small rural water supplies. I also very much appreciated your follow-up letter which reinforced and confirmed those assurances.
It is encouraging that compliance with acceptable solutions, including end-point treatment, will remove the need for drinking water safety plans and source water risk management plans and that consumer complaints processes will not apply to very small supplies. We support more time being provided in the legislation for registration of water supplies and we welcome your assurance that registration processes will be simple and free, with templates and guidance available.
Much will depend on the detail of acceptable solutions for small rural water supplies. Federated Farmers is committed to engaging with Taumata Arowai to ensure that acceptable solutions are fit for purpose and provide for safe drinking water at reasonable cost with as little compliance hassle as possible. However, at this stage at least, there are still many uncertainties.
While acknowledging the improvements to the Bill and the assurances on acceptable solutions, there remains much concern among farmers we have heard from. For example, how will acceptable solutions be kept simple while catering for the myriad types of schemes in existence? How will legacy issues (eg when suppliers’ properties are sold) be addressed? And how will simple easements (many of which are very old) be treated?
Feedback has been coloured by farmers’ exhaustion with the pace and direction of change imposed on the agricultural sector. This has been across many fronts, but particularly stressful was policy and regulation developed under Essential Freshwater reforms, much of which is being revisited after being found to be unworkable. We certainly do not want a repeat in this area.
On balance, Federated Farmers continues to prefer an exemption for small rural supplies (although we are open on whether the cut off should be 50 or a smaller number) with a focus instead on education and information, including developing best practice guidance.
Thank you again for hearing our concerns and for responding to them. I would welcome maintaining a dialogue with you and your officials to develop win-win solutions.