The funding is part of a $761million government package offered to councils to help maintain and improve three waters (drinking water, wastewater, stormwater), and to encourage them to work with the government on the development of a new regional model for the delivery of water services across New Zealand.
Mayor Toby Adams says Hauraki District Council entered into a Memorandum of Understanding and funding agreement with the Crown a few weeks ago.
“We agreed to accept a grant from the government and also to participate in a reform process that will look at solutions to some of the challenges facing councils in delivering water services, such as affordability for our ratepayers,” he said.
Council approves list of water related projects for Crown consideration
This week, the Council also approved a list of water related projects for the Crown to consider. If accepted, work must be underway by 31 March next year, and ticked off as completed within 12 months.
The Mayor says the projects were prioritised using robust criteria.
“There were plenty of projects to choose from so to prevent it becoming a lolly scramble, we looked at things like environmental and cultural values, as well as local benefit and economic stimulation,” he said.
Wastewater projects consistently floated to the top of the list due to the environmental and cultural impacts of getting things wrong in that area, and the importance of beefing up wastewater infrastructure to support growth. In particular, upgrading wastewater pump stations, minimising the risk of overflows, and desludging Waihi’s wastewater treatment pond, were bumped up to the top.
“Waihi’s pond is currently more than half full of sludge, which reduces its capacity to support new development. Our ability to deal with wastewater is essential for growth,” the Mayor said.
Big changes possible for the future delivery of water services
Other projects in the running include upgrading Waihi’s Wellington Street pump station, a new screen at the Paeroa Junction Road sewage pump station and improvements to the intake for the Kerepehi water treatment plant.
Council Chief Executive Langley Cavers says the Memorandum of Understanding and associated reform signal the beginning of some possible big changes to the future delivery of water services, and we can expect these changes to happen quite quickly.
“The Government has stated its intention that water services are to be delivered by regional or multi-regional entities to realise the benefits of scale for communities, rather than being delivered by local councils as they are now – and also that they expect this to happen within the next three years,” he said.
“While there is undoubtedly a need for more government investment in infrastructure to meet improvements in freshwater standards, increase resilience to climate change and natural hazards, and to enhance community wellbeing, I have some reservations about the proposed regional model and the potential for our communities to be overlooked in favour of the bigger centres. We’re certainly keen to stay involved in these discussions.”