Compromise could see Three Waters watered down

Source: 1News

The controversial Three Waters reforms could get watered down under a compromise arrangement proposed by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).

The overhaul aims to fix ageing, decrepit and failing water infrastructure nationwide by taking control from councils and handing it over to regional mega entities.

The issue has proved to be one of the most divisive facing the country, with up to 100,000 people offering their views to Parliament via select committee submissions, including the body representing local government.

READ MORE: Three Waters debates need to be based on fact - Ardern

LGNZ president Stuart Crosby says they’ve pushed to give local governments a choice to take responsibility for stormwater in their region, until councils are ready to transition into the new entity.

“Stormwater is one of those issues that's really integrated into all things council do, so not just drinking water or wastewater, they are connected to sport, recreation, leisure, passive reserves,” he said.

The proposal also calls for changes that'll allow more input from locals.

“They are deeply concerned their autonomy is being challenged yet again and they may lose some of their community say.”

Marlborough is one of 31 local councils that have broken away and formed "Communities for Local Democracy" to fight the changes.

The city's mayor, John Leggett, says there's a host of unanswered questions and inadequate consultation around alternatives.

“If you put it in terms of Marlborough we have a reticulated water system but of course, it enters the waterways it goes out into the sea, so when does the stormwater start, and where does it stop?”

National spokesperson for Local Government, Simon Watts says the water reform simply needs more work.

“The one size fits all model the Government is proposing is not going to be fit for purpose.”

But he acknowledges some councils support the reforms, and most agree change is needed to address problems that are decades in the making.

“Not everywhere is broken,” he said.

“We need to work with local government, not against them, to put in place an alternative model.”

Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta said she didn't want to comment now that the water services entity is before a select committee, but is looking forward to hearing public feedback.