Cold Creek water bill at final hurdle

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012

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The Cold Creek bill has one last hurdle to conquer before the privatisation of the controversial South Taranaki waterway goes ahead.

The bill passed its second reading in Parliament on Wednesday night, but not without a second round of feisty debate.

It will allow the transfer of ownership of the Cold Creek Rural Water Supply Scheme from South Taranaki District Council to Cold Creek Community Water Supply - a company owned by farmers who helped build the scheme in the 1980s.

During the parliamentary debate Labour MP Andrew Little reiterated his outrage over tactics used to convince the STDC to offer up its share of the asset.

"I've seen the minutes of the meeting and it looks to me that if it wasn't a threat it was close enough to it," Mr Little said.

"The record shows that the conduct by the MPs was inappropriate."

Late last year the district council's request to transfer its ownership of the $11 million water supply system was delivered in Parliament by Whanganui MP Chester Borrows.

At least half of the scheme was funded by taxpayers and the Cold Creek company seeking to control and own it was led by Neville Ardern, the brother of Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern.

Mr Little said the lack of acknowledgement by the Cold Creek company that half of the asset is taxpayer-owned is frustrating.

"As it stands if there is any sort of breakdown with the Opunake water supply the town can tap into the Cold Creek supply in emergencies and on that basis alone the people of Opunake should have a say in this decision," he said.

"History is littered with occasions where ownership has changed hands and there has been an understanding that nothing will change.

"But if it comes down to a water shortage the farmers are going to want every drop they can get for their stock and land," he said.

Mr Borrows who has pushed hard for the change in ownership said accusations from Mr Little that "bullying" was involved is frustrating.

"He wasn't at the meeting and he's interpreted it all wrong," he said.

He was pleased the bill passed with 102 votes in favour and only 16 opposed.

The Green, Maori and Mana Party all voted against the bill.

"I can appreciate those that voted against did so for a range of philosophical reasons," he said.

After the third reading the STDC will hold a referendum for the 350 consumers of Cold Creek.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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