Talking water, not mergers

Waikato mayors including Waipā and its King Country neighbours, will be meeting soon to discuss a water services entity.

Max Baxter

And Ōtorohanga mayor Max Baxter is warning of pitfalls. The water service entity is required by the Government because the Waikato has to have a water services plan in the next couple of months.

“It’s not a given by any means that there will be a unified approach across the Waikato, because there are winners and losers,” Baxter said

He said 27 per cent of the revenue is created by Hamilton city ratepayers, but 50 per cent of the infrastructure spend over the next 10 years will be in the city.

“If that is the case, if those figures are accurate, the other councils will be subsidising Hamilton’s infrastructure and their three waters,” Baxter said.

“And what is the chance of Ōtorohanga having any real impact on their actual costs… but it having a massive impact on our rates?

“I don’t think an agreement on what is the best way going forward at the moment is going to be universal.”

John Robertson

He said the core issue was that local government was not adequately funded – it received just two per cent of the national tax take, he said.

“Any sort of amalgamation until the funding model changes will just be a dead duck,” he said in response to Waitomo mayor John Robertson’s repeated calls to look at a merger with Ōtorohanga.

“It is inevitable that one day there will be amalgamation between neighbouring councils, and one I would suggest will not be led by local government.”

Baxter thought amalgamations might be services led rather than political. Amalgamation might be services led rather than by changing political boundaries. Ōtorohanga and Waipā recently collaborated on a pipeline contract that brought savings of scale to both councils, he noted.

“I think in the interim closer working relationships, greater collaboration, sharing of IP and ensuring optimum efficiency is the key focus currently,” Baxter said’

“The joining of Ōtorohanga and Waitomo per se, through lack of scale is not going to deliver on the savings which our communities desire or need.

“Amalgamation of the two councils? I’m not seeing it, I’m not feeling it.”

Barbara Kuriger

At a half hour meeting with King Country/Taranaki MP Barbara Kuriger last week he told her the coalition government – on the back of the last government, was killing local government, and localism.

“You came in with a mandate that’s all about localism, devolution of responsibilities and powers, empowering local communities; he said.

“All you have done is taken further funding away from local government, the last nine months since you have been in power. You are killing us. You are making local government fracture, there is no real closeness and camaraderie as there once was.

“You think about it where you have got sovereign citizens holding up elected members and arresting mayors and CEs because they have no trust in the delivery of services.

“When our rates increases were two and three per cent, communities were reasonably happy with us because we could actually do that. You throw inflation in that the increase in CPI and all of a sudden your rates increases are between 10 and 20 per cent across the country.

“And people are really angry. And I don’t blame them.”

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