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Thames-Coromandel and Queenstown Lakes councils question equity in Three Waters Reform entities

05 May 2022

Districts such as Thames-Coromandel and Queenstown Lakes will be severely under-represented in the government’s shareholding scheme for the new water service entities and lose out in the financial support package – both of which are based on normally-resident population.

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As the Mayors of popular visitor destinations, Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie and Queenstown-Lakes Mayor Jim Boult say using resident population puts both their districts at a disadvantage.

“Our population can double on a long weekend and goes up 400 per cent over the summer,” says Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie. “We’ve got to supply clean water and wastewater services for all of them. We have nine wastewater treatment plants and nine drinking water plants – Hamilton has one of each. There’s an inequity in the financial support and shareholding aspects of the reforms. The government allocation model puts our districts permanently and historically at the bottom of the rung with the allocation of funding,” says Mayor Sandra.

“With allocation based on resident population on census night our 52 per cent absentee ratepayers (they live elsewhere) means we only get half of what we should be getting,” says Mayor Sandra. “This is further compounded by the explosion of population during holiday periods.”

“With the allocation model with the Three Waters, our district is looking to be allocated $16 million, whereas we should be getting $32 million,” she says.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says the model as it is understood today does not accurately reflect the significant demand placed on the district’s three waters infrastructure.

“Like other areas in Aotearoa New Zealand that are a visitor hot spot we have a high number of non-resident ratepayers that maintain holiday homes which they visit regularly and rent out. On top of that a peak day can see in excess of 50,000 visitors in our district. With roughly 48,000 residents that’s three waters infrastructure servicing nearly 100,000 people. Within ten years that peak day figure will reach nearly 150,000. How can it be appropriate that our district is allocated just one share?” Says Mayor Jim.

In Queenstown-Lakes, the figure allocated is $16.13 million. “Within a short timeframe demand on our infrastructure will be getting up there with the likes of Dunedin and Tauranga which are receiving funding allocations of $46 million and $48 million respectively,” says Mayor Jim.

From July 2024, four entities are to take over the provision of water services (drinking water, stormwater and wastewater – the ‘three waters’) from New Zealand’s 67 local government councils.

The government announced last week that councils are to receive non-financial shares in the new entities, with each council getting one share per 50,000 people in its district, rounded up so that each council has at least one share.

Under this plan, Thames-Coromandel District, with a permanent resident population of approximately 33,000 would have one share in Entity B, which covers much of the central North Island. This is the same share as little Kawerau, with a population of 7,670.

Queenstown-Lakes District, with a permanent population of about 48,300, would receive one share in Entity D, which covers most of the South Island.

As part of the three waters reforms, the government is offering financial support. This ‘better-off funding’ is for local governments to invest in local community wellbeing but must be applied for. Population accounts for 75 per cent of the government’s weighting in considering the applications. Socioeconomic measures account for 20 per cent and the land mass of a council the remaining five per cent.

Thames-Coromandel could receive $16.2 million in better-off funding, while Kawerau could receive $17.27 million.

Read more about what the Three Waters Reform means for Thames-Coromandel District at www.tcdc.govt.nz/threewatersreform

More information on the government's Three Waters Reform is on the Department of Internal Affairs website.