Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest says his council will not form a ratepayer-owned company to manage water unless it is “absolutely and utterly” in the best interests of Waipa ratepayers.
Next week the council will further discuss an independent recommendation that Waipa join with Hamilton City and Waikato District Councils to form a council controlled organisation (CCO) to manage water and waste water.
The recommendation followed an independent report released in May which said the three councils would save $468 million over 28 years by forming a CCO. Waipa’s share of the savings would be $81 million, the report said.
The report also said a CCO would deliver a stronger and more resilient waters network, make better use of water and create fewer environmental issues around the region.
Hamilton City and Waikato District have already agreed, in principle, to form a CCO pending full public consultation. But Mylchreest said he believed Waipa councillors would be more cautious when the issue comes up for discussion on Tuesday [August 25].
Waipa District Council had, independently from the other two councils, sought separate advice from consulting firm McGredy Winder on issues including potential shareholding and governance arrangements, he said.
“This is a huge decision and we wanted to do a bit more digging around what a CCO would specifically mean for our district,” he said.
“There’s a few things we want more clarification on so I don’t think we’re ready to tick the box and make any kind of decision – even an in principle one - until those issues are worked through alongside the other two councils,” he said.
“Our advice is that the devil is in the detail and until we have got some certainty around what a CCO will mean for Waipa ratepayers we’ll continue to be very cautious.”
A staff report on Tuesday will seek approval to investigate matters raised by McGredy Winder, specifically on how CCO decision-making would work and potential shareholding arrangements. Mylchreest said he wanted clarity and formal agreement between the three councils on those issues before consulting with the public.
“That’s the kind of detail people would want to know so let’s start looking at those things now to see whether this thing is feasible.”
In the review of the report undertaken on Waipa’s behalf, McGredy Winder advised that “the council [Waipa] would need very strong reasons not to adopt the proposed CCO”. Under the Local Government Act, councils must meet the current and future needs of their communities in the most cost-effective way.
Mylchreest confirmed Council has also received legal advice saying the council would need “strong evidence to support its position” if councllors did not agree to consult the public on a potential ratepayer-owned waters company.
“And that might be the case and might be where we get to,” Mylchreest said. “It’s clear that the government is also driving councils towards greater regional collaboration to drive economic growth. But until my council is satisfied that we have looked at this from every angle on behalf of Waipa ratepayers, we won’t be rushing into a public consultation process.”
For more information on the recommendation to form a ratepayer-owned waters CCO, go to www.waterstudywaikato.org.nz.