Three Waters: Far North District Council opts out of reform following 'number of concerns'

Three Waters: Far North District Council opts out of reform following 'number of concerns'
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Far North mayor John Carter said it has "a number of concerns" including about lack of clarification of the costs of restructuring, and fears people of the Far North would pay massive water bills in the future.

The government wants to put Far North District Council (FNDC), Whangārei District Council (WDC), Kaipara District Council (KDC) and Auckland Council's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater functions into a giant top-of-New Zealand entity.

This would be one of four nationally, aimed at streamlining services provided by 67 councils.

Carter, a Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) board member, said an increasing number of councils around the country had approached him with concerns, which he planned to take to the next LGNZ board meeting in Wellington.

The Government said it will cost New Zealand up to $180 billion to fix New Zealand's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems.

FNDC councillor, Kaikohe's John Vujcich, said this money was to come from borrowing, and undoubtedly would be borne by Far North ratepayers.

Three waters restructuring was a "dog's breakfast", he said.

The government last month offered councils a $2.5 billion sweetener to opt in to the latest phase of three waters restructuring, before the end of the year.

FNDC could get $35.175 million if it opts in to the restructuring before the end of the year.

Under the restructuring it would potentially be able to hand over $48m in three waters debt.

But Carter said more than $300m of intergenerational ratepayer-funded water infrastructure would be taken out of council ownership.

FNDC general manager infrastructure and asset management Andy Finch said $306.514m of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater assets would potentially be transferred.

  • $74.576m of drinking water assets supplying 10,200 Far North properties, 350 kilometres of water pipes across eight drinking water schemes.
  • $142.716m for 11,620 Far North properties connected to wastewater services, 432km of sewage pipes across 15 wastewater treatment plants.
  • $89.222m of stormwater assets, including 2983 manholes, 132km of pipes and 40km of lined and unlined channels.

Carter said it was important communities still had influence over water decisions, which he said did not appear to be the case.

The people of the Far North needed to make sure they were up to date with the reforms and what they might actually mean for household water bills.

Kerikeri's Cr David Clendon said the Government could not promise the ratepayer-funded three waters infrastructure would remain in public ownership when transferred to the new entity.

"That's not true. Any Thursday afternoon in Parliament that legislation can be overturned," Clendon said.

He labelled the new system as undemocratic, because local governance control would be lost.

Northland's WDC in June became the first council in New Zealand to reject the opt-in government proposals.