Whangarei District Council withdraws from Government's three waters reform

The Whangarei District Council has voted to withdraw from the Government's controversial plan to reform the country's water infrastructure, saying it's yet to be convinced ratepayers will be better off.

It's withdrawn from the three waters reform for now, but the Government is promising more details will be revealed on Wednesday.

Havelock North's deadly 2016 campylobacter outbreak proved just how poor New Zealand's drinking, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure is.

The Government has a plan to fix it nationwide, but Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai confirmed on Tuesday her region wants out until it gets more information.

"If our government are making decisions on our behalf, keep us in the loop, inform us," she says.

Mai represents one of 67 councils that could lose control over their water.

The Government wants a new regulatory body and up to five large specialist entities to ensure things like drinking water are safe.

"We've got 1.5 million people in Auckland and 200,000 in the region, so how does our voice be heard?" Mai says.

"The frustration of Whangarei is clearly understood and actually reflects a lot of rural and provincial and metro New Zealand," adds Local Government NZ president Stuart Crosby.

The three waters proposal will see councils shift their focus from delivery to kaitiaki-tanga or guardianship of the water services.

Those with healthy infrastructure like Whangarei are nervous about what removing water-related assets from the balance sheet could mean for ratepayers.

"We've got supply, we've got storage, we've got a treatment plant, a brand new state-of-the-art treatment plan," Mai says.

Clutha's Mayor Bryan Cadogan says Central Government's been "skewing the playing field" by drip-feeding critical information on what he says is the biggest decision councils will make in a generation.

"Wellington have not yet shared many of the critical components required for councils to formulate an informed position, undertake due diligence, and engage with the present owners of the assets - our rate payers, that over the years have invested billions of dollars into infrastructure and deservedly want to protect their position," he said in a statement.

"With critical information still required from Central Government before the full picture is revealed we believe it would be imprudent for Clutha to make a pre-emptive move. That said to date all the cards are in Minister [for Local Government Nanaia] Mahuta's hands and she is playing with the deck up, so it remains to be seen just how much influence we have on the final outcome."

Mahuta denies she's been dragging the chain.

"Tomorrow we will be releasing detailed information so councils can see the proposed reforms and what it means for them," she says.