Three Waters Reform: Waikato Councils Still Considering Accepting Government Funding

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Hamilton City Council has requested an extension of time or a time waiver from the DIA regarding an application for Better Off funding. Photo/Hamilton City Council

Hamilton City Council and Waipā and Matamata-Piako District Councils are still considering accepting government funding related to the Three Waters Reform.

Waipā and Matamata-Piako talk with their residents as part of a community survey about whether to apply to the government for Better Off funding.

Hamilton has put the Better Off funding decision on hold, but will accept $1.4 million to reimburse council costs to respond to reform proposals.

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Although Waipā does not support the reforms, its council would like to request funding of $5.24 million, but first asks residents what they think.

The Better Off fund is to help councils pay for community improvement projects to help districts and towns build resilience to climate change or natural hazards, and enable housing development and growth .

Dawn Inglis, head of Waipā council’s service delivery group, says the funding request does not signal the council’s support for the reform agenda.

She says the council recommended in July that the Water Services Entities Bill be withdrawn. Councilors asked staff to survey the community before making a final decision.

If residents are in favor, the council has pre-selected seven projects.

Waipā District Council Service Delivery Group Manager Dawn Inglis says the funding request does not mean the council supports the Three Waters scheme.  Photo / Provided
Waipā District Council Service Delivery Group Manager Dawn Inglis says the funding request does not mean the council supports the Three Waters scheme. Photo / Provided

The projects are the design and construction of a Te Ara Wai Land Wars museum, the development of a resource recovery center, the implementation of cycling and walking projects, a Te Awamutu/Nga Roto cycle path/ Pirongia, a management plan for Lake Nga Roto, a feasibility study for a new Cambridge Library and improvements to public lighting.

The investigation on the site of the town hall open today and will run until September 2.

A final decision on the funding request will be made by the board’s service delivery committee on September 20.

Matamata-Piako has a potential funding share of $17.27 million. Like Waipā, the board wants community feedback on a few specific points. Comments can be made through the town hall website until September 5.

Hamilton Council has requested more time or a waiver from the Department of Home Affairs (DIA) for its Better Off request, after postponing it last month.

The deadline is currently September 30.

However, the advisers agreed to a contract with the DIA for $1.459 million to cover the council’s costs in responding to the reforms. The council said the costs of reform should be borne by the government, not by taxpayers.

The first tranche of funding is available now and a second tranche is expected in 2023/24.

The development of a management plan for Lake Nga Roto, north of Te Awamutu, is one of seven projects shortlisted for funding.  Photo / Dean Taylor
The development of a management plan for Lake Nga Roto, north of Te Awamutu, is one of seven projects shortlisted for funding. Photo / Dean Taylor

Hamilton’s funding will pay for research and the provision of data to the DIA and a national transitional unit and other work.

A funding agreement does not obligate the HCC to approve the reform program and places no restrictions on the board’s ability to comment on the reform.

Meanwhile, Waikato District Council and delivery partner Watercare have completed a series of water infrastructure projects with funding of over $11 million from the government’s Three Waters infrastructure stimulus package.

Notable works include the removal of 10,485m² of sludge from the Meremere, Huntly and Ngāruawāhia sewage ponds and the installation of an ultraviolet treatment unit at the Te Kauwhata sewage treatment plant.

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