Manawatū District Council is not convinced by the government’s proposed Three Waters Reform Programme, following
overwhelming opposition from community feedback.In a written submission to the Minister of Local Government Nanaia
Mahuta, Manawatū District Mayor, Helen Worboys, outlined the reasons for the Council’s position.
“This Three Waters Reform Programme, which is government’s preferred model of service delivery, is not in the best
interests of the Manawatū Community. This is based on feedback that we have received from our community, our own
calculations, and the view of Council,” says Worboys.
The community feedback received by 5:00pm on Wednesday 29 September saw 94 percent of respondents opposed the
government’s proposal out of a total of 2540 responses.Council’s three waters assets have an estimated current market
value (optimised replacement cost) of $329M and these have been paid for by the community. The Department of Internal
Affairs dashboard classifies MDC’s operating performance for three waters as “exceeding expectations”.
The view of Council and the community is that our three waters infrastructure and service delivery is not broken and
does not need fixing. Ongoing renewals, maintenance and upgrades are budgeted in our 10 Year Plan and 30 Year Asset
Management Plans.“The community of the Manawatū have told us that they want our three water services to be owned,
managed, built and operated locally, by people who understand our district,” says Worboys.
“We need to be able to be nimble, and make three waters planning decisions in conjunction with roading planning,
district planning and with a local economic development lens.”While the removal of associated three waters debt is
highlighted as a benefit of the proposal, Worboys says that “any additional borrowing and interest expense would still
need to be recovered from ratepayers”, which potentially means ratepayers are worse off once their water entity bill is
The rural community also highlighted issues around the ownership and management of rural water schemes and raised doubts
that committees that manage these schemes would see their current cash reserves reinvested into their assets.Council
suggested that while Iwi/Māori have an increased presence under the proposed governance model, Council believes that
local Iwi/Māori may lose their voice and influence over three waters decision making in the same way as council would
under this proposal. The community also had considerable criticism of the cumbersome governance system, and the lack of
Mayor Worboys has said that the council’s preferred position is to retain the status quo. However, they are prepared to
re-look at and further investigate a regional service delivery model for three waters infrastructure.“Preliminary
groundwork on a regional model has been undertaken and was progressing. This was put on hold awaiting government
direction from the Three Waters Reforms.
MDC intends to explore a collaborative regional service delivery model in more detail, including what form and function
it will take, and to provide this to government during the formal consultation phase for this Three Waters Review,” says
“There are better ways to address the deficit of investment in three waters infrastructure in some parts of the
country.”Council has also highlighted the need for strategic alignment of Three Waters reform, Resource Management Act
reform and Local Government reform which has just commenced. “The Government has the cart before the horse. It is too
late to review what the future of Local Government should be after it has taken about a third of what Councils do away
from Councils,” says Worboys.