National | Hastings

Councillor fumes over 'redneck' Napier water policy

Napier City Council is pushing back on submitting what it thinks of the Three Waters Reforms, which reduce the number of water authorities in the country and involve iwi/Māori.

The government wants feedback from councils for its reform package by September 30. The reforms would scrap the 67 local councils' control over the three waters (drinking, waste and stormwater) and create four entities for the whole country.

Hawke’s Bay would fall under Entity C, to be a combination of 21 councils from Gisborne, Wellington, some parts of the top of South Island and the Chatham Islands.

However, Napier mayor Kirsten Wise says more needs to be done.

“Quite frankly an eight-week timeframe doesn't allow us to do the amount of consultation required,” she says.

Some iwi leaders from the Hawke's Bay have told Te Ao Māori News that the reform marks a way forward for Māori following the government's 12-month engagement with local government and iwi/Māori to construct a partnership-based approach.

Hawke's Bay-only proposal

The three waters sector is one of the country’s largest infrastructure sectors, with 85% of ratepayers receiving water services from their local councils, including drinking water, wastewater removal and stormwater control.

However, Napier instead proposes a smaller group made up of just the local councils in Hawke’s Bay to hold authority over water allocation in the area.

But the council wants more time to consult with its ratepayers and iwi partners on how they feel about it.

While Ngāti Kahungunu iwi leaders are not surprised by this decision from the Napier council, especially after it became the only council in the region to not consider Māori wards for next year’s local body elections, mayor Wise is claiming that due to Covid lockdowns the council has had problems engaging with iwi.

“We’ve been very limited in having face-to-face meetings. Zoom is all very well but nothing beats those face-to-face meetings.”

Neighbouring Hastings councillor Bayden Barber, who supports the overall reforms, believes the delay by Napier City Council is a poor excuse and deliberately ignoring the need to work with Māori.

'Redneck move'

“I think that's a redneck move because I only see the benefits in [Three Waters],” he said. “The government wants iwi/Māori and local government to be at the table.”

Councils nationwide have an asset base of $54.6 billion with 4,900 council staff and providing support to 4.3 million customers. But Barber says iwi shouldn’t have to foot the bill from settlement funds for this three-year programme to improve infrastructure and make water more affordable and safer to use.

“Central and local government have the assets. They should pay for it.”