Waipa District Council has agreed to spend $162,500 as its share of a joint study into how water, waste water and stormwater services might best be delivered in the future.
But the study will not go ahead until both Waikato District Council and Hamilton City Council have also agreed to fund their share. Waikato District Council will meet today (October 28) and Hamilton City Council will meet on Thursday (October 30) to discuss the proposal.
The study will examine a range of options to look at improving the delivery and management of water services. The annual cost to provide water and waste water across the three councils is nearly $75 million per year.
Waipa District Council has already signalled that it is likely to spend around $200 million over the next 10 years replacing and upgrading water infrastructure and keeping up with population growth. Hamilton city and Waikato district are also facing growth pressures and all three councils are looking to maximise efficiencies and save money for ratepayers.
Previous independent reports have estimated potential annual savings of $3 - $4 million plus yearly savings of $1.4 million in plant reticulation and maintenance. However, based on the information available at the time, both reports said the savings could not be achieved if each council continued to manage its water services separately.
The study will investigate three options; boosting the existing shared service arrangements between all three councils, retaining the status quo with each council running its own operations, or considering a ratepayer-owned and council-controlled water management company (CCO).
The study will not consider establishng a private water company. The privatisation of council-delivered water services is against the law in New Zealand.
A governance group involving elected councillors from each council would overview the study. Waipa Mayor Jim Mylchreest and councillor Clare St Pierre were today confirmed as Waipa’s representatives on that group.
Mayor Mylchreest said council’s decision to help fund the study was not an endorsement of a ratepayer- owned water company “or anything else”. He said his council had an open mind and would continue to take a very cautious approach before making major decisions around the future of water infrastructure.
“This is a huge issue for the district and we have to get it right and that means we need to have the right information. This study will be thorough and definitive and should provide very clear recommendations. However, it will be up to the people of Waipa – no-one else – as to what happens in the future.”
In total $650,000 has been budgeted for the study with Waipa and Waikato District Councils paying $162,500 each and, if approved, Hamilton City Council picking up the remaining $325,000 cost.
The work will be undertaken by an independent advisory firm following a competitive process which attracted six bids. Results of the study will not be available until mid-2015.