Council unanimously votes to apply for 'better off funding'
At an extraordinary meeting held today at the Waimate District Council, councillors unanimously voted to apply for the first tranche of the three waters better off funding.
Council’s earlier decision to decline the first tranche was based on the absolute opposition to the Three Waters Reform, and the understanding that if the Three Waters Reform were to proceed, it would have the ability to combine tranches 1 & 2 and avail itself the combined funding package. The Government had initially promised Waimate District Council $2.4 million in tranche 1 and a further $7.26 million in tranche 2. With the Government recently resetting the Three Waters Reform tranche 2 of the better off funding has been withdrawn from all councils. Therefore, the only available option to ensure the community is not denied funding, is to accept the $2.4 million on offer.
The current economic climate, an inflation rate close to 7% and the crippling cost of living crisis weighed heavily on councillors’ minds while making this decision. Mayor Craig Rowley says, “If ratepayers were to fund the $2.4 million themselves it would amount to a rates increase of 18.75% (assuming the Council collected $2.4 million in rates in one year). The funding would also aid ratepayers in weathering the fiscal burden imposed by the Three Waters Reform.”
There are 13 projects that will be submitted to the Department of Internal Affairs for funding consideration. Without the funding these projects would either not be completed or would need to be funded by rates. The shortlisted projects are a result of submissions based on consultation with the public late last year.
The total estimated cost of the projects is higher than the available funding. The final projects are subject to approval by the Department of Internal Affairs.
Suggested Tranche 1 Projects
Footpath extensions within Waimate urban area
Sealing of intersection/hill section of Centrewood Park Road
Library extension and Council Chamber upgrade
$1,000,000 (better off funding)
$758,000 (rates over life of asset)
$83,160 (other funding source)
Overland flow and flood mitigation (Waimate urban)
Greenhouse gas inventory assessment
Native tree planting
Sealing of Resource Recovery Park
$131,000 (better off funding)
$76,000 (rates spread over life of asset)
Develop an Economic Development Strategy and main street concept plans
Produce district promotional video
Re-roof community housing at Kennedy Crescent
Total Better off funding projects costs
The Department of Internal Affairs has assured Council that acceptance of the funding does not mean a gag order on our opposition to the Three Waters Reform. Mayor Craig Rowley says, “I have serious concerns about the Government’s overzealous centralisation of local resources along with the relentless stifling of local voices in decision-making. Council vehemently opposes the Three Waters Reform in its current form, and strongly believes that the disbandment of local institutions will not lead to a superior service at reduced costs, a case in point being the amalgamation of the district health boards and polytechnics. We will take every opportunity to fight the Government to ensure the best outcomes for the community.”
A serious question that now needs an answer is, should the Three Waters (now called Affordable Water) Reform go ahead, councils understood that the second round of funding (now withdrawn) was to aid councils in the post reform, restructure costs. So, who now should pay for those costs?
We urge the Government to honour the original promise of two tranches of funding that were originally negotiated between Local Government New Zealand and the Crown.