22 Aug 2021

Hawke's Bay leaders write to Mahuta to rethink Three Waters model

11:27 am on 22 August 2021

Local government leaders and iwi representatives in Hawke's Bay say they are not convinced the government's proposal for Three Waters reform is right for the region.

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

They have written to the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, seeking more detail and a rethink of the model on the table.

The government is proposing that responsibility for Hawke's Bay's three waters services would transfer to a regional entity, comprising of 21 councils from the East Coast of the North Island to the top of the South Island and the Chatham Islands.

Mayors in Hawke's Bay have since written to Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Local Government, requesting further information and setting out why Government's proposal, as it stands, will not satisfy the three waters service delivery needs of Hawke's Bay.

Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker said last year, the region's councils released the report of their own independent review for a regional approach to three waters service delivery that would achieve affordability and sustainability for all Hawke's Bay's communities.

Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker

Mayor of Central Hawke's Bay, Alex Walker Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

"Now we are in a strong position to review the government's model and how it stacks up against our own and whether or not what's proposed would deliver on our regional objectives," she said.

Walker said the region's councils all agree that to meet the requirements of new water regulations, change was required in how water infrastructure and services are funded and delivered.

"However, we are not convinced the proposal government has put forward will meet the needs of our communities, on a number of levels."

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said going into the regional review in late 2018, the five councils of Hawke's Bay and iwi representatives put considerable thought into the objectives and principles that any regional solution would need to meet.

"We are especially concerned that the governance structure Government is proposing for the new water services entities means our voice will be lost and decision-making will be too distant from our communities," she said.

"One of our bottom lines for any new arrangement is that Hawke's Bay must have direct representation and a strong voice on a water entity's governing board, and that includes mana whenua."

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Wairoa mayor Craig Little said another major issue was affordability.

"Government is telling us what the new model would mean in terms of cost savings for households in 2051, but they're yet to show us what the costs would be on day one under their new model.

"We simply cannot have a proper conversation with our communities about whether or not they will be better off under the government's model without knowing what costs they would be up for on day one.

"Our other big concern is the real need to retain capability and jobs locally. We need to be able to rely on having the right skills and expertise on the ground to manage essential three waters service delivery for our communities."

'Localism important to region'

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said government localism was important to the region.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst Photo: Hastings District Council

"We [are not] convinced that government's proposal would mean we could maintain the capability and the capacity to deliver quality sustainable planning, management and operation of three waters services for our communities."

Regional council chair Rick Barker said the entity did not reflect boundaries aligned with the Ngāti Kahungunu iwi, meaning the identity of mana whenua in Hawke's Bay could be lost and would not provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to decision-making.

"That is why we are asking the Minister to engage with our iwi Chairs directly," Barker said.

"We are also asking Minister Mahuta for the opportunity to consider our Hawke's Bay regional option."

Last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardren and Mahuta announced the nationwide proposals in Havelock North, where a campylobacter outbreak killed four people in 2016.

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