Wairoa mayor Craig Little believes the Government’s $2.5 billion package to support local government ‘transition’ through major water reforms is “a big carrot with fish hooks”.
The package provides $28.8 million for Gisborne and $18.7 million for Wairoa. Strangely, the funding is not tied to water assets and services and is able to be used on local ‘well-being’ outcomes associated with ‘climate change’, housing, and urban design.
Mayor Little says he’s hanging out for the funding ‘conditions’. “The reaction is, hey, we should be celebrating, but what are the fish hooks? What do we have to do to use this money?”
Little says the Government only had to provide this funding from the start, rather than, “try to take our three waters away from us.
“We should be celebrating, yes, Wairoa should be better off, but the problem is if they carry on doing these reforms, will there be a Wairoa there? Is this on the journey to amalgamating councils? That’s our concern.”
The Government plans mean the Wairoa and Gisborne district councils will be lumped into a water entity covering the North Island’s east coast to Wellington and the top of the South Island.
Gisborne District Council mayor Rehette Stoltz is also “cautious” about the funds set aside to support her council, which manages around $300 million of water infrastructure and has committed more than $20 million a year to improve and maintain the district’s systems over the next three years. She also says her council has work to do to understand the proposal details and the potential financial implications.
“We will only settle for what is best for Tairawhiti and our community.”