Council votes to reduce fee to LGNZ in protest of Three Waters reforms

1:23 pm on 5 June 2022

A North Island council has put Local Government New Zealand on notice over the Three Waters reform.

Feilding clock tower

Manawatū District Council has slashed its fee to LGNZ in protest of the organisation's handing of the three waters reform issue. The council is based in Feilding. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The Manawatū District Council voted to reduce the membership fee it pays to Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), an organisation which represents the interests of local councils collectively.

The council said it had done so because it was not happy that LGNZ signed an agreement not to oppose the government's three waters reform.

Some councillors, including Grant Hadfield, had not wanted to renew the membership at all.

In the end a majority decided to cut the annual contribution they pay to LGNZ by about a third, reducing the fee of about $45,000 a year by about $15,000.

The council had already paid around $15,000 to Communities 4 Local Democracy, a lobby group that opposed the current form of the three waters reform, it said in a statement.

In September, Timaru District Council voted to end its membership with LGNZ, over their dissatisfaction with the handling of the three waters issue.

Manawatū mayor Helen Worboys said they felt they had been left with little option but to take a stand.

"We've had many conversations with them.

"We've said that the majority of their council members were not happy with the way Local Government New Zealand have managed the three waters debate, and that didn't seem to be listened to. So our council felt the only way was to make a protest."

"We're not saying that we don't want to be part of Local Government New Zealand, we're just saying - if you look at their mission statement it is to advocate on behalf of all of their members, and in this case they haven't done that."

Deputy mayor Michael Ford agreed the council should take a stand, but said it was important it remained with LGNZ because of wider benefits the organisation provides.

The first three waters legislation was introduced to Parliament this week, it would see local councils throughout the country hand responsibility for management of water services to four independent entities, but councils would remain shareholders.

LGNZ this week admitted it had not adequately explained their Three Waters strategy to their members, but said it was not apologetic for their decision to work with government on the plan.

This was not the first time Manawatū District Council debated leaving LGNZ over the issue; the idea also put to the vote in October last year, but the council instead voted to sent a letter of no confidence to LGNZ president Stuart Crosby and chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene.

In a statement, LGNZ president Stuart Crosby said the "vast majority" of councils have already paid their membership fees and local government was not a one-issue sector.

"There are a range of issues we need strong leadership and advocacy on and most councils recognise that LGNZ delivers that. We received a letter from Manawatu District Council on Friday afternoon and we will be reaching out to them next week."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs