William Wood, Palmerston North’s youngest councillor, is challenging the council to take a position on Three Waters reforms.
Palmerston North councilor William Wood will launch a public debate on the council’s position on the government’s Three Waters reforms.
He is submitting two motions to Wednesday’s council meeting to vote against the plan and to explore alternatives.
The recently elected councilor said he accepted the need for reform and that the council continued to plan for change, but believed there were alternatives to the current plan.
The government’s reforms would transfer assets and management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater from municipalities to four regional entities.
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Wood said taxpayers needed and wanted to know what Palmerston North councilors thought.
Public consultation and a full council debate never took place in the city.
Wood said the case for reform was clear.
In the case of Palmerston North, the $450 million plus investment required in wastewater management, the “Nature Calls” project, was prohibitively expensive for taxpayers.
The council needed a plan for what it would do if a national government were elected and proceed with a pledge to pull the plug on Three Waters.
There could be other ways to pay for water improvements, through co-financing, some kind of long-term lease of facilities and assets, or the creation of a municipality-controlled organization to manage water services, perhaps for a group of municipalities, he said. .
He said there was no point for the council to take a position unless there was a viable alternative, and he wanted support for council staff to explore what those options might look like.
Cr Brent Barrett has supported the call to explore alternative financing arrangements.
Barrett has previously expressed frustration at the lack of public debate on the issue around the council table.
Wood’s call for the council to voice its opposition to the currently proposed model is supported by Cr. Leonie Hapeta.
He said that while the status quo was unsustainable, taxpayers were deeply concerned about the changes.
One concern was the loss of about $600 million in local assets that had been built up and paid for by taxpayers.
People also worried about the lack of local voices in the proposed water rights, potential additional costs and slower responses to local water issues.
“The public deserves to know this board’s position for or against the model.”
He said people needed to know that the council was advocating on their behalf.
The council recently received $825,000 to pay for work needed to transition to the new model, which Wood says was wise preparation.
The council is also in line to raise a potential $8.16 million through the government’s “better off” funding as part of the reforms for projects including housing development in Summerhays St on the former grounds of the Terrace End Bowling Club.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the type of housing planned for Summerhays St has yet to be decided. (Updated 9:45 AM, December 7, 2022)