Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden wants feedback on three key issues affecting the district.
The Horowhenua District Council is initiating consultations on three key issues for the region.
At Wednesday’s extraordinary council meeting, council members voted unanimously to receive a consultation document for amendment to the long-term plan that includes a rate review, water infrastructure and the future of the Levin landfill. This starts the community consultation process.
This has provided the Board with an adverse audit opinion from Audit New Zealand regarding the inclusion of Three Waters assets in the long term plan beyond 2024, but the Board was willing to do so as it was lawful.
Monique Davidson, chief executive of the council, said she respected Audit New Zealand’s opinion.
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“We have a prime minister who has challenged the minister of local government to reset the Three Waters reform.
“Today we are in an environment where the assumptions around the reform of Three Waters have to be in our minds [Long Term Plan amendment] and in a week, two weeks or three weeks that could look very different, depending on an imminent announcement from the minister of local government.”
She said the council had to consider what effect Three Waters would have on the community after July 1, 2024 because of the huge uncertainty surrounding the reform.
“We are in a situation where we are in an election year, we are in between possible policy changes. And what we need to do is the right of our community.
“The right thing is what we think Three Waters costs would look like if we kept accountability for it.”
Mayor Bernie Wanden and councilors wanted to hear public feedback on the matter.
Wanden said that while an auditor’s report was important to the council’s reputation, it was important to make sure the community was aware of what was happening so that it felt comfortable.
“Although we will get a negative opinion, it will be a legal opinion,” Wanden said.
Outside of the meeting, Davidson said as part of a rate review, the city proposed a change to how it distributed rates across the district.
“As part of the annual plan portion of this consultation, we are also proposing a rate increase of 7.9%,” she said.
“This is largely due to an increase in costs outside the control of the council, such as insurance, interest, cost of construction contracts.”
A decision on the future of the landfill is the second subject discussed by the municipality and a decision must be made this financial year. Work at the landfill site is suspended until a decision is made.
In 2019, a formal review of the closing date was set out in the deposit agreement. From November 2021 to the end of January 2022, the municipality discussed closure options with the municipality.
That consultation process should have offered a wider range of options, not just options to close the landfill, and it should also have been linked to the long-term plan, which would have made it more transparent about the ongoing implications of each option.
That is now done with the amendment.
The third issue is water infrastructure. Horowhenua’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater networks need to be modernized to keep up with population growth and be resilient to climate change.
In the long-term plan 2021-2041, the council agreed to invest $121 million in drinking water, $171 million in wastewater, and $29 million in rainwater.
Major investments include an untreated water reservoir to increase Levin’s drinking water storage capacity, improving water filtering capacity at treatment plants, upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, and district-wide stormwater improvements.