MEDIA RELEASE: South Wairarapa District Council wants environmentally responsible management of safe water, delivered in a sensible and cost-effective way

2 July 2021

Media statement from Mayor Alex Beijen of South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC):

The South Wairarapa has water assets in need of considerable investment to bring it up to standards currently recognised as fit-for-purpose.

This Council has recognised previous council’s underinvestment, and has reacted with a plan that will correct these deficiencies. Since 2019, we have substantially increased our spend on water infrastructure, and are prepared to further invest as required.

In order to achieve this, SWDC has joined with an aggregated water delivery model, Wellington Water Limited, to deliver efficiencies and capability.

What constrains our Council is the Government restriction on borrowing for long term infrastructure investment, and this is the main area that must be solved.

What we want as a Council is to ensure environmentally responsible management, and safe water to our communities, but in a sensible and cost-effective way.

What the Government has presented to us is an option. Unfortunately, no other options have been considered or discussed.

The Government proposes a drastic and destabilising solution for a simple problem of allowing Councils to remove water assets from the balance sheet, and borrow to provide sustainable solutions.

These reforms will do the former, but are likely to be monopolistic in solutions and cost recovery. We are very concerned about the future charges for water on our residents.

The actions of the Government in this process have been very poor. There has been no consultation, little engagement, and the solution, singular, appears to have been predetermined.

The ‘case for change’ includes broad assumptions that have not been readily disclosed, and in all cases weighted to make the current water situation appear worse than it is.

The Government has not accepted their culpability in the under-investment and under-regulation of water over the past 30 years.

Figures used on Council investment to highlight deficiencies appear to be dated, and do not take into account billions of dollars spent, and budgeted, for upgrades since these figures were collected.

The media campaign appears nothing more than propaganda, and has seriously damaged trust and collaboration between Central and Local Government.

The water asset proposal makes the ability to nationalise water services in the future much easier for future governments.

At this stage we are unlikely to be able to avoid being forced into the reforms, but in the absence of a discussion about better options, would work to make the best of the planned changes.


Media contact:

Sheil Priest

Communications & Engagement Manager

South Wairarapa District Council

                             Mob: 027 252 2863       


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