Shared water services debate continues as Hamilton considers non-asset option

The three councils involved have already talked about an council-controlled organisation which would own water assets ...
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The three councils involved have already talked about an council-controlled organisation which would own water assets such as the Hamilton water treatment plant, and a staged move towards towards a CCO. (File photo)

As Cyclone Cook washed over the country, Hamilton councillors were discussing how best to manage water.

Three Waikato councils have been talking about how to bring their water services together for about two years but are yet to decide how.

A council-controlled organisation (CCO) was one of the first suggestions, in 2015, but other ideas are coming into the mix.

One possibility is a shared waters management company - which wouldn't own assets such as pipes and plants - and Hamilton City Council is considering it.

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Waikato District Council favours an asset-owning CCO but wants to "get on with it", while Waipa District Council wants a staged approach.

Hamilton City Councillors haven't formally agreed to the shared management company but showed some support at a Thursday briefing, a statement from Mayor Andrew King said.

"It would allow each council to keep control of its own assets and keep each council fully involved in decision-making."

"It takes away a huge amount of risk."

The company could be set up within the first half of 2018 if councillors pick the shared management model, executive director of special projects Blair Bowcott said.

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"It does allow a relatively fast path if that's the mood of the council."

But there would also be talks with the other councils and public consultation to fit in before then.

Hamilton City Councillors are due to decide their preferred model on May 4.

Whatever happens, they have decided to keep control over any water metering decisions for the city - and King said they're off the table.

Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson wants the councils to "get on and bring this issue to a conclusion".

The door's open for further discussion but Waikato believes an asset-owning CCO is the best option, he said in a statement.

"That's consistent with what multiple experts have told us over multiple years and that's what's going to give our people and the wider region the most benefit."

Waipa District Council would be willing to talk about a shared management model but would make its own call, a statement from Mayor Jim Mylchreest said.

Waipa councillors established a preference for a staged approach to change at a meeting before Christmas, he said, and HCC's position was "very close" to that. 

"I think all three councils want the same thing; the best possible management of water. But we need to thrash out the best way to achieve that."

The shared management model discussed in Hamilton would cover water, wastewater and storm water.

Information about the work undertaken to date to consider a new model for delivering water and waste water services is at waterstudywaikato.org.nz

 - Stuff

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