Rural residents concerned about the future of their water, sewerage and stormwater infrastructure should gear up to have their say, Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard says.
“Federated Farmers, a majority of local authorities and many New Zealanders have voiced serious misgivings over the government’s plans for council three waters assets to be transferred to four new mega entities.
“We remain opposed to this plan. The government’s announcement today that this will be mandatory is a huge call,” Andrew said.
Local Government Minister Nania Mahuta has said a working group of local government, iwi and water industry experts will be set up to work through design of how the new entities will operate.
“This group will have its work cut out to allay a multitude of concerns,” Andrew said.
“Top of the list for Federated Farmers are issues around governance and accountability. The complexity of rural water scheme ownership and operations has got rural people worried.
“How will the new entities ensure the needs of smaller and rural communities are not crowded out when setting investment priorities and plans?
“The proposed arms-length governance arrangements with directors appointed by panel, which are in turn appointed by yet another panel, weaken the accountability of water service entities to communities,” Andrew said.
There are also serious questions around the robustness of the government’s estimates of savings and benefits from moving to the new arrangements.
“The select committee process, and the public consultation that Minister Mahuta has promised, needs to be rigorous.
“Federated Farmers has already said this is cart before the horse stuff. We’re also in the middle of resource management reform and examination of the future of local government. The government has yet to convincingly demonstrate adequate planning and thought has gone into how the water services reforms integrate with these two very significant processes.”