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Mayoral Column – Local Water Done Well – Three Waters – Long Term Plan

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all

The change in 3 Waters to Local Water Done Well has meant changes to our long term planning, but also allowed us to prepare extensive data on the condition of all our water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. The 3 Waters Asset Management Plan shows $177 million needs to be spent over 10 years with much of this in the first few years which challenges our ability to deliver and pay for it, with 87.2 kilometers of pipe renewal required. Council is having to cut this because it is just unaffordable, and it would significantly increase debt.

Last week I met with TVNZ reporter John Campbell and Horizons Regional Council to discuss some of the challenges for rural New Zealand including paying for large infrastructure with a small ratepayer base. Having seven water and wastewater systems gives the Tararua District39 water and wastewater consents and another 25 landfill consents with more than 4,000conditions which need to be met and monitored. These are our responsibility and require regular testing and management. We have recently received an abatement notice from Horizons for an error in this area, which I suspect is the result of stretching our waters staffing resources. The error will be addressed, and our systems reviewed. The world of regulation and compliance has changed dramatically, with a hefty price tag.

We have a total of 6.5 kilometers of earthenware pipes with an average age of 89 years which should all be replaced in year one of the Long-Term plan at a cost of $6.7 million, but this work has been spread over six years.

In our initial draft Long-Term plan 48 per cent of the total capital projects are in the 3 waters space. Replacing our ageing pipe network in both water and waste needs to be budgeted and planned. We have looked at the highest priority being safety and compliance with our water, compliance with our wastewater and a plan for the stormwater network. Much of these networks’ pipes are 60+ years old with a hefty price tag to replace.

All this work cannot be carried out at once and extensive work has been undertaken to create a plan for the Tararua District. Our current ratepayer base of 10,346 cannot afford this plan of work which needs to be carried out and the real pressure on our headroom in Year 5 of the Long-Term plan. Key challenges include the percentage of water loss from council’s reticulation networks which is high in Dannevirke and moderate in Pahiatua and Eketāhuna.

The uncertainty of the Dannevirke Impounded Supply adds further pressure and right now itis very difficult to receive conclusive information and answers from the experts on the way forward. The supply remains stable and is being constantly monitored.

The funding model for this infrastructure, and in many ways, for Local Government is broken and needs to be addressed. Council largely only has one source of funding-rates. Affordability is an issue for wastewater projects and the repair of the Dannevirke Impounded Supply.

Conversations around funding and working together with our neighbouring councils using Local Water Done Well have commenced to identify a different funding and delivery model to increase our scale while keeping our local voice and local teams.

As we progress through the Long-Term plan councillors and staff are working incredibly hard considering the priorities for the district and to bring plans and options to you for consultation.

 Noho ora mai, Mayor Tracey Collis


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