The transfer of the management of three waters from 67 independent councils to four large publicly-owned entities means Hamilton City Council will be part of a central North Island entity involving 22 councils in the greater Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and parts of Manawatu-Whanganui. Boundaries will be confirmed in September, and come into place in 2024.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate welcomes the move and says the case for water reform is clear. “In Hamilton analysis shows that, without reform, the average household cost for water services would more than double. For other councils, the numbers are far more sobering,”
On the subject of the ownership of the new entities the Government has iterated that all water assets will remain in public ownership, as they must, she says.
“But there are still plenty of challenging conversations ahead. Our focus now will be on ensuring Hamilton remains a strong and leading voice in those conversations. We want to actively influence these reforms. We will not be a passive bystander to one of the biggest changes to local government in decades.”
Many details, including financial transition arrangements, were not yet clear, she says referring to the Government’s financial reform package to support local government transition.
“Hamilton has always advocated for funding assistance. No council can afford to, or will support, any reform that will place further financial burden on local communities. Ratepayers simply cannot afford it,” says Paula.
“We will also be asking the Government what financial assistance will be provided to those councils that will see a massive portion of their operation go because of water reforms. What will the Government do to ensure the ongoing viability of those smaller councils?
“Over recent months, I’ve spoken with mayors throughout the Waikato region and beyond. While not all of us agree on everything, we all want to do the right thing by our communities. Now I think we just need to get on board, be constructive, and make sure we do what’s right for our communities and for the country overall.”