I am actually sick of writing about Three Waters reforms.
If I say nothing then I am failing to assist both council and the public with what is an extremely complex and critical process, using my unique insight through chairing the Rural Supplies Technical Working group (RSTWG), and co-chairing the South Island Three Waters workshops.
On the other hand, as soon as I do say something, it’s misconstrued and seen as me delivering the Government’s message.
I believe the best thing for the district is to continue to promote our community’s cause, because it has already proven already to be advantageous to Clutha.
Clutha’s rural schemes have been given the opportunity to control their own destiny as to whether its scheme remains in the entity or chooses to go private.
Clutha leads the way in this process, being the first to take advantage of this opportunity, and I want to acknowledge the many hours of work put in by all scheme chairs, DIA, Taumata Arowai, and the council to advance the proposal to this stage.
It’s not for me to state my preferred position. Once the mechanisms were enshrined in the legislation it became purely a business decision for the end users.
A little-known fact is that due to the recommendations stemming from the RSTWG, all 75,000 private rural water schemes are now entirely out of the entity process, and the remaining 80 larger rural schemes, such as the 11 in Clutha, now have the mechanisms in place to decide for themselves what their future ownership structure might be — to go private or stay in the entity.
I do hope, after all that has been sacrificed to get to this point, everyone involved takes a clinical, calculated, approach. In 10 or 50 years’ time, the ancillary issues and personalities that have dominated and distorted proceedings to date will long be forgotten, and only the decision will remain, and whatever that decision is can have far-reaching, permanent implications.
This is too important a chance to allow attention to be diverted.
One benefit of extracting rural from the reforms is that now, hopefully, the true and present danger that exists for our urban communities can be looked at in a more focused way. There is no absolute right or wrong for Three Waters. It all depends on where you live.
If I was the mayor of Christchurch, or Waimakariri District, I would oppose the present entity configuration tooth and nail.
The last thing I would want would be to have my ratepayers subsidising the hinterland, where there are huge distances between tiny communities that will trigger infrastructural needs — like Clutha.
We have about 6000 urban rateable units in Clutha to fund, among other things, 11 water schemes, and 12 sewerage schemes. Not only do we have to maintain this infrastructure, we are also having to work towards discharging sewerage to land.
Which neighbouring districts would provide the critical mass required to carry this financial burden? Not anyone in Otago or Southland, and the only place worse off than the lower South is the West Coast, so it’s hold hands with the half-million people that make up half the South Island’s population. Yes, it’s Canterbury or bust and, by bust, I mean the potential for some districts to quadruple their rates demand within their next LTP 10-year period.
If you don’t think that’s possible, just take a rates demand and add 10%-plus each year for the next 10 years. Thankfully, that’s not Clutha’s prediction, but have a look around at the increases being mooted in some districts, and maybe start thinking what $1 in every $4 for a single pensioner going to rates would mean.
Very quickly you should see the imperative to take this issue for what it is: the largest collective financial decision our nation will make in our lifetimes.