Concessions from Govt welcomed

Fluid situation . .. Tuapeka Rural Water Scheme chairman Roger Cotton sees hope in recent Three Waters reforms concessions won from the Government relating to Clutha’s rural water supplies. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON

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‘‘THEY’VE listened to us.’’

Recent Government concessions in relation to Clutha’s rural water schemes are a big step in the right direction, operators say.

In a letter dated July 26 to Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, Three Waters Reform executive director Hamiora Bowkett says mixed›use schemes such as those in Clutha should be permitted to ‘‘directly own and operate the scheme, independent of the water services entity’’.

Bryan Cadogan

Such an arrangement would be contingent on 75% of users agreeing to the proposal, and a ‘‘robust assessment of factors associated with the scheme’s independent operation’’.

Mr Cadogan was the Rural Supplies Technical Working Group chairman during recent consultation on the reforms.

The group proposed 73 changes to the reforms, some of which the Government now appears willing to adopt.

Tuapeka Rural Water Scheme chairman Roger Cotton praised Mr Cadogan’s efforts, saying the district’s rural water users had got what they asked for.

‘‘To be fair, Bryan Cadogan’s done a pretty good job in engaging with those managing the Three Waters transition, and allowing us to explain why Clutha is quite unique in how our water schemes operate.

‘‘They’re mixed›use schemes, where 90% is for stock use, but they also supply those living in the area, and additionally some rural town supplies.’’

The district’s 12 schemes supply 1842 urban users and 4860 rural users — about 35% of the district’s 19,000 residents.

‘‘Collectively, we wanted the choice of going private, or opting into Entity D, and centralised ownership and management.

‘‘And they’ve listened to us.’’

He said much remained to be done, and the schemes would now seek outside consultancy to assist in formulating viable options by December 22, on which users could then decide.

‘‘It’s quite easy to just say ‘stuff the Government, we’re going to do what we like’, and I can understand that.

‘‘But we need to be open› minded and objective and look at this in a way that allows us to go to our consumers and say, ‘this is Entity D and how it’s run, and it has these pros and cons; and this is the privatisation model, and here are the consequences’.’’

Mr Cotton said he saw challenges with each option.

‘‘If we go into Entity D, we lose that local governance and knowledge. Christchurch is a long way from Tuapeka,’’ he said.

‘‘If we go private, all that local input is retained, but there may be issues down the track with personal liability of scheme operators, if something like Havelock were to occur, for example.

‘‘At the end of the day, we all want potable water, we all want guaranteed supply for our stock and we all want to meet regulations.

‘‘Now we’ve got a chance to decide how best to get there.’’

Mr Cadogan said the concessions vindicated his council’s approach to the reforms.