Health of the river is vital
Cool heads and a common-sense approach must prevail as the Central Otago region faces a wave of issues relating to water.
Late last month I supported the decision of the majority of ORC councillors who voted to ask for more scientific information to be tabled before they decide on minimum flows for the Manuherikia River.
A complete scientific and ecological picture must be used to form a well-balanced decision informed by science.
Balance is at the heart of what the council should aim to achieve.
I believe everyone agrees that the health of the river is vital and that it should be future-proofed for generations to come.
At the same time, maintaining the wellbeing of the Central Otago community is essential.
The reality is that water drawn from the Manuherikia river creates hundreds upon hundreds of jobs, many of which contribute to a food supply chain feeding our communities and many further afield.
While the Manuherikia River’s minimum flows are being discussed, countrywide reforms including both the Water Services Bill and the Three Waters Reforms are also being considered.
My National colleagues and I have serious concerns about the Three Waters Reform programme.
I’m sure many of you will agree it’s easy to see why.
Councils will be stripped of ownership and control of their water assets while the country is projected to foot a bill of between $120billion to $185billion for the entire project.
To put that in perspective, New Zealand’s entire Gross Domestic Product last year was $190billion.
Recently every mayor and chair in Otago and Southland called on the Government to pause the Three Waters reform programme so that they could obtain enough information and time to consult with their communities as they are legally required to do under the Local Government Act.
The Act says councils must consult with their communities on major changes to planning and infrastructure.
The Government has been putting pressure on councils to ignore that and push ahead with the reforms without giving councils sufficient information and time to meaningfully consult with their communities.
It’s not a responsible approach and it is at odds with the democratic processes New Zealand has developed and prides itself on.
That’s why I stand with those across the country opposing the Government’s agenda of mass centralisation which it’s pushing in other areas including polytechnics and across the health system.
Let’s ensure that our communities continue to be empowered to have a say on the things that matter most to them.