Waipa councillors look less likely to support a proposal to transfer Waipa’s water and wastewater assets into a ratepayer-owned company.
Instead they may try to convince Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council to take what they say is a far more “prudent and risk-averse” approach to managing water and wastewater across the three districts.
In June and July this year all three councils agreed to consult their communities on an agreement to form an asset-owning council-controlled organisation (CCO). The CCO would be responsible for managing all water operations, on behalf of each council.
Waipa still intends consulting on that proposal. But it now wants the other two councils to also consider an option which wouldn’t require each council to transfer its assets into a separate company. A water company would still be formed, funded by the councils and responsible for all water activities. But councils, if they chose to, could retain ownership of their own assets.
Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest said there are big financial and other advantages to be gained from the three councils joining together to manage water and wastewater more efficiently. But he does not believe that moving straight to an asset-owning CCO as recommended by a range of independent consultants is the right option for Waipa.
“That might be a very good option for Hamilton and Waikato but my job is to focus on what’s right for our district,” he said.
“Waipa is not anti-change; we simply want to ensure that any change we make is the right one for us.”
Next Tuesday Waipa councillors will consider a report which recommends Waipa ask the other two councils to consider a staged process which could be “tested and proven”. The staff report is supported by an independent analysis from Wellington-based consultants, Morrison Low.
“We would favour the mixed model of management and operation because it’s prudent and mitigates much of the risk. We believe it would deliver the bulk of the benefits to ratepayers, including many of those offered by an asset-owning model, but doesn’t lock Waipa into something that would be hard to get out of,” Mylchreest said.
He said from the beginning, his council had taken a prudent and cautious approach to the CCO proposal. While neither Hamilton or Waikato had yet affirmed their positions, he believes Hamilton will want to change the agreement around water meters. He noted that, since the agreement was made, Waikato District Council has advised it needs to spend millions more on its waste water network. This was not factored into the original financial analysis, he said.
Mychreest said Waipa was not walking away from discussions with Hamilton and Waikato and would like to see the mixed model option also put to the community to consider.
Media enquiries, contact Jeanette Tyrrell (on behalf of council) 027 507 7599