Five seek funding to investigate future water services
Five Central South Island district councils have applied for funding to investigate changes to water services as part of a major Government review.
The Central South Water Collaboration (CSW), which comprises staff from Ashburton, Mackenzie, Timaru, Waimate and Waitaki district councils, is investigating whether a collaborative approach to three waters services delivery could benefit their Councils and communities; leading to improved public health and environmental outcomes.
Three waters encompasses drinking water collection, treatment and delivery; sewage transport, treatment and disposal; and stormwater management.
The Government set up a Three Waters Review team in parallel with the inquiry into the drinking water contamination incident in Havelock North. It has been considering solutions to the wider affordability and capability challenges facing local councils, and has mooted that there is likely to be significant change to how these services are provided.
CSW has applied for $120,000 from a Government fund set aside to help investigate regional, multi-regional or sub-regional service delivery models. The five councils will also contribute $120,000 towards the project which will be split based on their population.
Ashley Harper, Senior Programme Delivery Manager at Timaru District Council, who is coordinating the project, said that the collaboration of the five councils allows for solutions at a significantly better scale, but that are still responsive to local requirements.
“There has been a clear indication from Government that the provision of three waters services will change, so the collaboration has been formed to investigate what kind of model would best serve our area’s specific needs, and do so in an affordable manner for ratepayers.
“Collectively we think it’s important that we take the opportunity to investigate and propose a system using our local knowledge and experience, rather than have a less tailored solution imposed on us.
“Combined, the five councils serve around 115,000 people, this sub-group of five districts in the Canterbury Region are geographically co-located covering an area comparable to or larger than many regional councils in the country. The districts are like-minded and share similar sector and population profiles, as well as common issues and opportunities regarding three waters.
“This project will build on work already begun by CSW to understand key principles and objectives for collaborative water services, identify options for collaborative service delivery, and understand costs and wider impacts.”
Councils in the South Canterbury area have a long history of collaboration on major cross boundary infrastructure, most recently the Aoraki Roading Collaboration has helped standardise and bring benefits of scale to roading service procurement and a new Total Waste Management contract collaboration will be going out to market shortly.
“At this stage we’re not speculating on the final shape of any future service, but we’ll be aiming for a model that provides the scale needed to ensure services across the area are delivered in a high quality and affordable manner as per the likely Government expectations,” said Harper.
Chief Executive Stuart Duncan commented that “From time to time all business operators feel the negative impact on performance when there is a shortfall of human resource, whether it be from staff leave, illness, retirement or recruitment. For councils, services like the three waters, it is a natural activity for neighbouring councils to consider resource sharing through joint enterprise, where councils form a joint business unit to achieve economies of scale across a functional area of core business.”
“Sharing resources through joint arrangements provides operating cost savings from economies of scale, reduced need for additional staff and cost sharing for specialist staff, and opportunities to review customer service and the efficiency and effectiveness of operations regionally.”
Details of which projects will be granted Department of Internal Affairs funding are predicted to be announced in early April.