Referendum on water scheme begins

DEENA COSTER DEENA.COSTER@DAILYNEWS.CO.NZ
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014

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The future of South Taranaki's Cold Creek water scheme is being put to the vote.

A referendum opened yesterday asking all residents of voting age whether the South Taranaki District Council can move the Cold Creek Water Supply Scheme into private ownership.

This includes the transfer of physical assets such as pipes, along with the treatment plant and the land.

The plan for the council to transfer ownership of the infrastructure to the farmers who built it has long divided many in the South Taranaki community.

Legislation passed in March last year paved the way for council to hold the referendum. For the scheme transfer to get the green light more than 50 per cent of voters need to support the move.

One group opposing the change is the Taranaki Iwi Trust, which represents iwi and marae located in the affected area.

In submissions made to council late last year, which are required by law to be made public, trust general manager Liana Poutu said there was "utmost disappointment" about the decision to proceed with the referendum using what is called a ratepayer elector vote.

One of the reasons outlined in her submission related to uncertainty about whether marae would be able to vote in the referendum.

Council manager corporate services Phillippa Wilson said the rules regarding marae participation in the referendum were set out in the Local Electoral Act 2001 and were outside of council's control.

She said it was possible for marae to nominate a ratepayer elector so long as none of the trustees had already qualified to vote as a residential elector.

"This is not the first time that council and iwi will have a different view on an issue and it probably won't be the last," Ms Wilson said. "I believe we have a good relationship and will continue to work together in the best interests of the whole district."

The scheme provides water for about 650 people and services approximately 162 connections across 7620 hectares of land in the Pihama and Te Kiri districts, near Opunake. The water is sourced from the Cold Creek Stream.

Valued at $8.6 million, it was built in 1984 and is managed by Cold Creek Community Water Supply Limited, the same company the council will transfer the asset to should it get approval to do so.

Voting began yesterday and all papers must be returned no later than noon on Wednesday, February 12. Voting papers can be posted or dropped off at the South Taranaki District Council or New Plymouth District Council offices and at Opunake Library.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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