Taking water assets away from councils is wrong. Moving water assets from one government body to another is a recipe for more bureaucracy and less local input.

ACT’s plan will allow community control of water assets and improve the necessary infrastructure to ensure safety and efficient water allocation.

ACT’s Water Infrastructure Plan

ACT would:

  • Return water assets to councils.
  • Allow councils to enter into voluntary “shared services” agreements, gaining the benefits of scale, while retaining local ownership and control.
  • Establish 30-year central-local government agreements to plan water infrastructure upgrades tailored to specific regions.
  • Share GST revenue with councils to fund infrastructure upgrades.
  • Establish public-private partnerships to attract investment from financial entities such as KiwiSaver funds and ACC.
  • Expand the exemption from domestic supply for a single dwelling to also include all small water suppliers supplying fewer than 30 endpoint users.

The problem with the Government’s plan

The Government has proposed moving control of water assets away from local communities and into ten centralised bodies, after originally proposing four entities. ACT is unconvinced that this model will result in better outcomes.

Shutting down local voices

Centralising water infrastructure is an asset grab. This is why councils are rightly expressing concerns about the proposals. Community voices are important and need to be protected in how local infrastructure and water is managed.

The ten proposed water service entities roughly divide up regions with board members appointed by oversight groups made up of council and iwi representatives. There is no guarantee of representation from the users of the water, especially from rural or provincial communities.

However, we do recognise that water infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain. Some smaller councils lack the critical mass and rating base to support a professional workforce to service their assets in the 21st century. Even in our larger cities, a history of under-investment and council debt limits, has resulted in leaking pipes, sewage overflows and resistance to consenting additional land for housing.

ACT believes we can improve on the current system but we don’t need to do so through state-mandated centralisation.

Harming smaller initiatives

The proposals will harm small private schemes by imposing a costly regime on operators that do not require this level of regulation and compliance, including rural water schemes, holiday home communities, common bore sharing, marae and more. The risk is that these operations will choose to shut down due to the unnecessary burden being placed on them.

ACT would expand the exemption from domestic supply for a single dwelling to also include all small water suppliers supplying fewer than 30 endpoint users.