Rimmington warns of three water pitfalls

Russ Rimmington

Waikato Regional Council chairman Russ Rimmington has sounded a warning that the Three Waters Accord could penalise councils which have already invested heavily in infrastructure.

And he suggests those councils should be credited by central government when the cost of the Three Waters project is mapped out.

“I think a credit to push transport or recreational facilities paid out by the Government would be a good idea,” he said.

Mr Rimmington is a devout supporter of the programme but says there must be some acknowledgement that not all councils have invested the same way.

He says it would be unfortunate if a council like Waipā District, which has invested, was treated the same way as those which had not.

He said some councils did not have the ability to fund major water projects – and some of those councils which did and went into debt were penalised at the ballot box at the next elections.

He said his biggest fear was that the Government would be tempted to sell off its water works in the same way the energy reforms of the late 1990s saw private and foreign investment after the power market was deregulated in 1997.

Mr Rimmington was a vocal opponent of the expansion of the Waikato Electricity Authority when American company Utilicorp was allowed to invest.

He suggested such investments resulted in price gouging without any further investment in infrastructure, and that could not be allowed to happen with water.

“I don’t want to see a repeat of the great New Zealand asset sale.”

He believed the way forward for water harvesting in New Zealand was further investment in dams.

The pressure to draw water from the Waikato River was already at a peak, he said – but what Auckland did with dam construction in the Hunua Ranges contributed to future proofing the city for decades. Similar projects in areas like Coromandel were the way to go, he believed.

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