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Protecting Hamilton ratepayers from an ‘unfair’ share of water management costs, and clarity on future law changes are Hamilton City Council’s primary concerns with proposed legislation for Government’s Local Water Done Well policy.

Council met this week to approve a submission to Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee on the Local Government (Water Services Preliminary Arrangements) Bill. The meeting was called at short notice as Government provided just two weeks for submissions since releasing the Bill on 30 May 2024.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said the tight timelines were unhelpful, particularly for legislation which would significantly impact councils across the country and have big impacts on future rates and the delivery of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services.

“There’s no question we need to deliver water services differently. Across the country, we know the current model doesn’t work. Councils simply can’t invest the money needed to future-proof our waters infrastructure.  

“But at the same time, we can’t properly plan for our future without all the information. This Bill streamlines the process for councils to form new organisations to deliver water services, but it’s only part of the picture,” Mayor Southgate said.

“We need game-changing new tools and funding options to build new organisations, to transition our current councils, and to make sure Hamiltonians don’t pay an unfair share of any regional solution to a national issue.”

Hamilton’s submission makes five primary points:

  • Stormwater is not well defined, and this will present major issues for the establishment of a new water services CCO and for the design of fit for purpose economic regulations.
  • Any new entity for water services delivery must work for Hamilton and allow locally empowered, innovative solutions, not a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach.
  • This Bill is only part of the picture. Government must expedite the next tranche of legislation so councils can fully understand the intended statutory authority and powers of a water services CCO, compliance, economic regulation, tax implications, and the other policy matters.
  • Responding to Government policy comes at a cost to Hamiltonians at a time when households, and Council, are under severe financial pressure. Water services reform is a national multi-generational issue, with national public health and economic impacts. Funding to enable transition must recognise this and be made available at a national level.
  • It is essential that the benefits of any new rules exceed the cost of compliance and provide value for money. Hamilton City Council seeks changes to the Bil to ensure this happens. 

“The challenge of reforming the waters sector has been going on for years. Successive Governments have imposed greater regulatory and compliance costs on Council, at a time when ratepayers are already bearing the brunt of high inflation, high interest rates, increasing insurance costs and a cost-of-living crisis,” Mayor Paula said.

“We know we need change, but we also need help to pay for that change. That’s the challenge for this Government and I want to see what they bring to the table so all of us, councils, government, and community, can get this right for the future.”

Council’s full submission on the Local Government (Water Services Preliminary Arrangements) Bill is available here.  

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