Hike funding

Three Waters’ first tranche of ‘better off’ funding is about to start flowing

A $2.5 billion support package is to be made available to local authorities under the government's Three Waters reform program, made up of

STACY SQUIRES / Stuff

A $2.5 billion support package is to be made available to local authorities under the government’s Three Waters reform program, made up of “better off” and “worse off” funds.

Tasman District Council is compiling a list of projects for which it hopes to get a share of the first $500m tranche of the government’s ‘better off’ funding for the Three Waters reform programme.

This first 500 million dollars – out of a total of 2 billion dollars – must be delivered from July 1. It is part of a $2.5 billion support package for local authorities under the government’s reform program which aims to merge water services from 67 councils nationwide into four service entities some water.

Under the proposal, control of most Tasman District Council drinking water, waste water and stormwater (three water) assets is to be transferred to ‘Entity C’.

The $2 billion “better off” fund consists of $1 billion in Crown funding and $1 billion from the proposed water service entities. The remaining $500 million of the support package is intended to ensure that no local authority is worse off as a direct result of the reform.

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Richard Kirby, head of Tasman District Council's community infrastructure group, said staff were drawing up a list of projects that could attract

Martin De Ruyter / Stuff

Richard Kirby, head of Tasman District Council’s community infrastructure group, said staff were drawing up a list of projects that could attract “better off” funding.

Tasman District Council staff also plan to apply for some of this ‘not worse off’ funding – to cover the time they spend working on reforms, which are on top of their regular roles.

The $2 billion “better off” funding is to be allocated to councils based on a formula that takes into account population, relative deprivation and land area. An indicative total of $22.54 million has been allocated to Tasman District Council. Assuming it’s delivered on a pro rata basis, the council could receive just over $5.6 million of the first $500 million.

“So we’re actually working on a list of projects and some criteria,” director of the council’s community infrastructure group, Richard Kirby, told the operations committee on Thursday.

Once finalized, staff intended to present that list to elected members, likely in May, he said.

A staff report for the council project Annual plan 2022-23which includes higher-than-expected rate revenue increases and higher water rates, says council will consider “whether some of this funding could be used to reduce the impact of the water rate increase” .

New Zealand Local Government Chairman Stuart Crosby said the availability of the first tranche of “better off” funding was welcome news.

“We see this as a real opportunity for councils to start or accelerate projects that might not have happened otherwise,” Crosby said.

The Tasman District Council's interest and debt in the Waimea Dam, under construction near Nelson, is set to be transferred to a new water entity as part of the Three Waters reform programme.

Waimea Water/Supplied

The Tasman District Council’s interest and debt in the Waimea Dam, under construction near Nelson, is set to be transferred to a new water entity as part of the Three Waters reform programme.

In a report written for the operations committee on the Three Waters reform program, Kirby points out that the National Transitional Unit – created to oversee the implementation of the reforms – is to set up four local settlement entities in 2022. , who will support the transition in their field. Each entity will have a board of directors and a general manager. On July 1, 2024, these local establishment entities will become the four water service entities.

Water utility entities will need a skilled and capable workforce, he says.

THING

The government will pursue the Three Waters reform despite considerable opposition. Video first published on October 27, 2021.

Councilor Kit Maling said there were ‘only a limited number’ of qualified and specialist staff and asked about ‘the risk to us going forward in terms of pinch staff’ .

Kirby said there have not yet been direct requests for council staff to join the new units.

“Suffice to say it’s still early days and the Settlement Unit is still trying to get these in place, so things may change over the next few months.”

The intent was for all council employees working primarily in water utilities, except for senior executives, to transfer to the new water utility entity in their region, Kirby said.