Three Waters: Ashburton mayor considering High Court challenge

5:57 pm on 19 November 2021

Ashburton District mayor Neil Brown has not ruled out linking up with other councils for a scrap in the Wellington High Court over the mandating of Three Waters.

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Mayor Neil Brown. Photo: LDR / Adam Burns

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed last month that Three Waters reforms would be mandatory for councils as the legislation moves ahead.

The announcement was met with heated criticism throughout the country, including the Ashburton district.

Brown said he was disgusted at the loss of a democratic decision during the immediate fallout.

A working group that includes nine mayors from around the country and several iwi representatives was confirmed last week to help guide the process.

Ashburton District councillors continued to discuss the next course of action at this week's council meeting.

A Memorandum of Understanding, led by Waimakaririri mayor Dan Gordon, has been proposed to establish a working group to engage with the government on alternate avenues on the reforms.

The Ashburton District Council is likely to join forces with several others around the country and will table its ongoing commitment at the next council meeting on 1 December.

To join the group would cost the council $15,000.

Councillor John Falloon suspected it may prove a fruitless exercise.

"What are we going to achieve when the government is just going to come back and say 'we've already formed a committee of mayors'. What do we hope to achieve if the government deem not to talk to us?"

Councils from the Timaru, Waimakariri and Whangārei districts have also filed an application in the Wellington High Court against Mahuta and Secretary for Internal Affairs Paul James, seeking a legal judgment over what the word "ownership" means.

Brown said joining that legal avenue would also be discussed at the meeting in a fortnight.

"We are a council who is not happy with the way it has gone," he said.

"I believe we need to explore every avenue to get things to a more amenable agreement."

Councillor Rodger Letham said council needed to represent the ratepayers of the district by taking every step possible, even if there is uncertainty as to what impact it would ultimately have.

A letter signed by about 30 mayors was sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the reforms but was yet to garner a response.

Brown said that some mayors of district's within the South Island's proposed Entity D makeup had opted not to sign the letter.

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