Tararua District’s water infrastructure won’t fix itself – Kieran McAnulty

Tararua District’s water infrastructure won’t fix itself – Kieran McAnulty
Tararua District’s water infrastructure won’t fix itself – Kieran McAnulty

Everyone deserves safe, reliable and affordable water services that keep families and our environment healthy.

Kieran McAnulty speaking at an orchard near Napier earlier this year. Photo / Warren Buckland

OPINION

The coalition Government has deliberately washed its hands of a water problem that will cost our country billions.

Fixing New Zealand’s water infrastructure will cost up to $185 billion over the next 30 years. Councils can’t face this by themselves, which is why Labor had a plan to help them out.

Now, it’s going to be ratepayers here in the Tararua District and across the country who will foot the bill.

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It’s simply irresponsible that in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, Christopher Luxon and the National Party have put water reform in the “too hard” basket and as a result will make life more expensive for homeowners and likely renters.

Peer-review advice shows that ratepayers here in the Tararua District will face costs of $19,130 ​​a year in real terms in 2054. Ratepayers in other parts of the country are facing even larger increases, with some up to 90 per cent.

But we won’t have to wait that long to feel the pain. The network is under pressure now. I was at a public meeting in Norsewood recently where residents were rightly frustrated at the poor quality of their water, and the length of time it is taking to find a solution.

While I fully understand their anger, I also feel for the council. Every council inherits the decisions made years before they came on board. And in my experience the Tararua District Council is doing as much as it can with the resources it has. It was the Tararua District that I had in mind when I fought so hard to get a solution across the line.

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Instead of seeing the problem and finding a practical solution, Christopher Luxon has overseen a Government that is comfortable to push it back to councils and let them take the blame in years to come when they inevitably have to increase rates.

Here’s the thing – the Tararua District Council has said itself that it can’t do it alone. The district is facing costs of around $600m over the next 30 years. The Government’s alternative plan will be voluntary. What other councils will voluntarily join up with the Tararua District and take on this cost burden? I can’t see anyone putting their hands up for that. So we will be left out on our own with no way to pay for it other than increasing rates.

The National Party promised it would help councils pay for water infrastructure. Now it has broken that promise.

Every ratepayer in the country will end up paying more, and for some households, these rates will become unaffordable. It’s not just us saying that, the Government’s own peer-reviewed advice says so.

For us it’s always been about rates. I accept Labour’s plan should have been communicated better, but the snapshot is it would have helped councils fix the country’s pipes and made sure households wouldn’t see huge rates increases.

It’s a plan that would have saved thousands of families of dollars, with projected savings of around $16,100 per year for people here in the Tararua District in the future.

Everyone deserves safe, reliable and affordable water services that keep families and our environment healthy. But after decades of neglect, our water services – our drinking water, wastewater and stormwater networks – are facing a crisis.

Ratepayers deserve better than a coalition Government that leaves councils with no support and no options on something as important as water.

Kieran McAnulty is a Labor list MP and is the party’s spokesperson for housing, regional development and local government.

 
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