Waipa District Council has formally agreed to consider a ratepayer-owned company to manage its water operations.
But the council’s support is still subject to negotiators getting the best deal for Waipa ratepayers plus a full public consultation process.
The council is already in discussions with Hamilton City and Waikato District Councils over forming a joint council-controlled organisation (CCO) to manage water infrastructure. In May last year an independent report by consultants Cranleigh said ratepayers across all three councils would be better off, financially and otherwise, if water services were managed separately by a specialist organisation.
The Cranleigh report said forming a CCO would save around $107 million across three councils over 10 years plus drive better drinking water and environmental standards and a stronger regional waters network.
Waipa District Council has since commissioned three further reports to see if Cranleigh’s claims stack up. Those reports* all agreed there would be advantages to ratepayers and all recommended Waipa consider forming a CCO.
Mayor Jim Mylchreest said there was a long way to go before any final decision was made. He noted consultation on any formal proposal was unlikely to happen before 2017 and only if the new Council elected in October this year agreed to proceed.
“We’ve been very cautious up until now so today’s decision to support, in principle, the formation of a CCO, is a clear signal that we need to seriously consider this on behalf of our community,” Mylchreest said.
“It doesn’t mean we’ve made a decision to go ahead; that’s a long way off. But it does mean we will continue negotiations with the other two councils because the reports claim a CCO does have advantages and is worth pursuing.”
Mylchreest said discussions with Hamilton City and Waikato District were continuing but clarity was still being sought on a number of issues.
“There are some very complex areas to work through and I’m certainly not wanting those rushed. As soon as there is a more concrete proposal to bring back before Council, we’ll do that,” he said.
The three councils want to agree the shape of any waters CCO before this year’s council elections so the public was clear on what was being considered. All three councils, post-election, would then have to agree to proceed.
The majority of Waipa councillors voted to support the formation of an asset-owning CCO in principle and subject to full public consultation. Councillors Judy Bannon, Clare St Pierre and Vern Wilson voted against. Cr Laurie Hoverd was absent.
The three additional reports involved:
1) Investigating whether forming a CCO would seriously impact the viability of Waipa DC (finding it would not).
2) An academic assessment of the efficacy of CCOs in light of international experience
3) A risk management assessment
The reports, plus other information are all available on www.waterstudywaikato.org.nz.