In light of the Government’s Three Waters Review, Otago and Southland councils have been discussing whether a collaborative approach to water services delivery (drinking water, storm water and wastewater) could benefit Otago and Southland communities and the environment.
To explore what options may be viable for the future delivery of 3 Waters services, the councils have applied to Government to help fund an indicative business case.
On behalf of the Otago and Southland councils, Dunedin City Council General Manager Infrastructure Services Simon Drew says this type of investigation will produce options that will inform further discussions and, in time, public consultation on how 3 Waters services are delivered.
“The business case and associated workshops, alongside stakeholder engagement will allow Otago and Southland to develop and understand water service arrangements that best meet and respond to local circumstances,” says Mr Drew. “The process will identify a preferred option or options to investigate further and discuss with communities.”
“This is not about privatising water, it is the beginning of a conversation about the most efficient and effective way of delivering these vital services. Government have been very clear that 3 Waters assets remain in public ownership.”
Mana whenua will be involved throughout the process so that their values and aspirations, inherited through whakapapa to the land and water, will be realised.
The business case is expected to take approximately eight months, to be completed by December 2020. It will then be brought back to councils for discussion. If the funding application is not successful, Otago and Southland councils remain committed to exploring avenues for collaborating on 3 Water services. Alternatives to the Government-funded process will be progressed if required.
The indicative business case has been costed at $375,000. Government is being asked to fund 50% of the cost. The remaining 50% will be funded jointly by Otago and Southland local and regional councils.
A full report outlining the investigation will be presented to respective councils over the next few weeks.
Councils will be advised in April 2020 if the funding application has been successful.
The 10 councils are Dunedin City Council, Central Otago District Council, Clutha District Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Waitaki District Council, Otago Regional Council, Gore District Council, Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and Environment Southland.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. What is the Government’s Three Waters Review?
A. Central Government is reviewing the regulation and supply arrangements for 3 Waters across New Zealand. The review acknowledges several challenges facing the sector, including funding pressures, rising environmental standards, climate change, seasonal pressure from tourism, and the recommendations of the Havelock North water supply contamination incident in 2016.
Q. What has the Government done so far?
A. In December 2019, the Government introduced Taumata Arowai, the Water Services Bill, which establishes a new water regulator – called Taumata Arowai – as a Crown agent and outlines its objectives, functions, operating principles and governance arrangements. A separate bill will implement new regulations affecting drinking water, wastewater and storm water networks.
Q. Will residents have water meters?
A. No decisions have been made. This is a preliminary investigation to explore suitable options for 3 Waters service delivery.
Q. Will rates increase?
A. The investigation will examine whether shared services can minimise rates increases associated with 3 Waters services, with an overall, long-term benefit for ratepayers.
Q. Will boil water notices be lifted, will water be chlorinated?
A. This review is not about drinking water quality, chlorination, or removing chlorine from drinking water. Any future decisions about drinking water quality will be considered following the new drinking water regulations.
Q. When will a final decision be made?
A. The business case is due back to councils in December 2020. Findings from it will be discussed with Council, mana whenua and the public before any decisions are made.
Q. Will the public be consulted before decisions are made?
A. Yes. Public feedback is expected to be sought during the 2021 10-Year Plan processes at each council.