It seems the council has benefited by $3.27 million from the Three Waters [Better Off] fund for three projects. None of these projects appear to have much relevance to giving us clean and safe water. It is surprising to me that this and many other councils strongly opposed the Three Waters proposal, but are quite prepared to stretch their hands out for money when it suits their agenda. Do they think a playground, a pool and a landscaping project are more important than everybody having access to clean water? The majority of us would think not. In reality most of them have never given water a serious thought until the shower did not work or the washing came out of the machine with brown stains. Councils can build above-ground structures for us to heap praise on for their achievements; meanwhile, as most water infrastructure is underground, it does not get the same attention. An old saying comes to mind: what the eye does not see the heart cannot grieve.
As with all public funding there are set criteria that must be followed in order to receive the allocation. In the case of the Better Off funding, the Crown insisted the fund was to support councils to transition to their new post-reform role, and that the broad criteria should include:
• Supporting communities to transition to a sustainable and low emissions economy.
• Delivery of infrastructure and/or services that enable housing developments and growth.
• Delivery of infrastructure and/or services that support local place-making and improvements in community well-being.
The Crown would have appreciated that this funding was, in effect, to compensate for the loss of Three Waters assets. Every council in New Zealand has applied for the fund, as it is a rarity to receive support that enables communities to advance projects.
However, Three Waters projects were excluded from consideration as the Government could hardly say the communities had received compensation, when it is their stated intention to transfer councils’ Three Waters assets to one of four entities that they are in the process of establishing in July 2024.
Regardless of where councils stand on the reforms, it would have been a huge disservice to our communities not to have applied for this funding, as it has absolutely no effect on the more controversial aspects of the reforms, and has enabled substantial savings to our ratepayers.