Options being assessed for Clutha District’s rural water schemes
An assessment of Clutha District’s rural water supplies is underway, looking at how the schemes could operate in the future.
Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan says reforms are distinctly different for the urban three waters and the rural one water.
“For the most part our rural areas only have a one water – a rural drinking water supply, whereas most urban areas have three waters – drinking water, stormwater and wastewater.”
Council and the rural water scheme’s working party have been working with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). This follows earlier work as part of the Rural Supplies Technical Working Group.
“An independent assessment, funded by the DIA, is being undertaken by Morrison Low, looking at the benefits, costs and risks of customer-ownership versus water services entity ownership and operation.”
Results of the work will be made publicly available and will help to determine whether an owner operated scheme is a viable option. The assessment will also inform three waters legislation to be fully enacted in mid-2023.
“This work is important – it will play a critical part in determining the future of our rural water schemes and the communities they serve. Council and our rural water scheme committees have been working to advocate for the district’s rural drinking water schemes.”
Clutha District has 11 rural water schemes that provide water for farm use and domestic consumption. A number of townships in the district are connected to these schemes, including Kaka Point, Waihola, Clinton, Tokoiti, Tuapeka Mouth, Waitahuna, Heriot, Pukerau and Waikaka.
Under the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme all council-owned and operated drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services will be transferred to four new water services entities on 1 July 2024. After this date, councils will no longer have direct roles in managing and operating three water services. Privately owned and operated water schemes will not be affected by the current service delivery reforms.
The Government has agreed, in line with a recommendation from the recent Rural Supplies Technical Working Group, that users of council-owned drinking water schemes that exist primarily to provide water for agricultural purposes may have the option to be excluded from the entity and seek direct ownership and operation of their scheme under certain conditions, yet to be determined in legislation.
“Over the next few months, work will include discussions between council, DIA, farmers, scheme chairs and contractors to ensure the work is factual and practical. If the assessment shows customer ownership is viable, then we would look at how best to structure this option and how Government’s conditions could be met.”
The work happening in Clutha District will inform approaches to similar assessments of other council owned mixed-use rural water supplies throughout New Zealand.
More information will be sent to rural water scheme consumers in early 2023 to inform them of the results of the assessment.