A single council-owned company to manage water, wastewater and stormwater services to try to share resources and save money is off the table after Waipa District Council threw out the plan.
At a meeting just before Christmas Waipa District Council rejected a recommendation to form a non-asset owning company alongside Hamilton City Council.
Hamilton voted a week earlier to support the formation of a waters company with itself and Waipa as founding shareholders. Waikato District Council, which has also been involved in discussions, has yet to indicate how it wants to manage its waters business. It is expected to make a decision shortly.
Hamilton Mayor Andrew King says he respects Waipa District Council’s decision, but adds he is disappointed the benefits of a sub-regional approach to waters management have been lost for now.
“Hamilton voted for a non-asset-owning CCO as the way forward for waters management. Reports have identified significant financial and non-financial benefits through this approach, and the clear message from central government has been that New Zealand has to look closely at how we support and improve waters management at a national level. The proposed CCO would have delivered some of the outcomes Government are looking for, while providing direct benefit to our ratepayers and those of our potential shareholder partners.
“I am disappointed, but I don’t think those opportunities have been lost forever. In the meantime we will continue to provide high quality waters management for our city, and continue to work closely with our regional partners on our existing shared services arrangements.”
Hamilton City Council had cited the financial efficiencies offered to each council compared with the status quo, the regional benefits to be gained from closer collaboration and the non-financial benefits including the ability to attract and retain expert staff as reasons to form a company.
But Waipa’s elected members rejected those arguments, 7-6. Those who voted against the recommendation to form a company were councillors Hazel Barnes, Vern Wilson, Grahame Webber, Clare St Pierre, Sue Milner, Judy Bannon and Elwyn Andree-Wilson. Those in favour were Mayor Jim Mylchreest, Bruce Thomas, Liz Stolwyk, Susan O’Regan, Marcus Gower, Andrew Brown.
Mr Mylchreest said he was disappointed at the outcome but respected the process and the vote. He said it was a “very difficult and technically, a very complex decision”.
“Time will tell whether the vote was the right way to go. Personally, I don’t think so. But, the decision has now been made and as elected members our job is to wholly support our staff in getting on and delivering the best possible water services we can with the resources we have,” he said.
“That’s exactly what we’ll be doing. Waipa has a huge capital works programme proposed over the next decade and that needs to be our focus.”