A word from Joseph Mooney, Southland MP

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High water standards supported

Water is one the most significant issues facing Central Otago and three key proposals are set to have a huge impact on our region the establishment of minimum flows for the Manuherikia River, the introduction of the Water Services Bill, and the Government’s broader Three Waters reform proposals.

Engaging the local community should be the biggest priority as the discussion on the future of the Manuherikia River continues this month.

Exactly how much of a say those whose livelihoods rely on this magnificent natural resource and those in the local community advocating for the protection of its ecosystems have had is unclear despite the announcement that the Otago Regional Council (ORC) received 1089 submissions on five proposed minimum flow scenarios.

Each submission has been published anonymously, raising questions about how many came directly from local residents and ratepayers and how many came from organisations and interest groups outside our region.

The Otago Regional Council can’t leave the future of the Manuherikia River and the protection of its ecosystems to chance by letting outside influences dominate crucial debate.

Locals know that there are many parts of the river’s water quality, habitat, and ecology are in good condition while other parts of its catchment areas need to be improved.

Working towards improving those areas should be the subject of a transparent and open debate among those most affected.

Similarly to the future of the Manuherikia River, National will be lobbying hard for an open and transparent debate on each part of the Government’s Three Waters reforms.

So far that hasn’t happened, with little detail and certainty being shared with the public about how regions will benefit from the handing over of their water assets to one of four new entities.

The Water Services Bill, introduced last year and now in front of the Health Select Committee is part of the Three Waters Reform programme.

The Bill aims to transfer the establishment and monitoring of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater standards to a new entity, Taumata Arowai.

Ensuring New Zealanders have access to a high standard of drinking water is something National supports.

However, there are major concerns about how the Government has suggested this is achieved and what costs will be placed on each household.

It is of particular concern that rural households, especially properties with multiple dwellings, could be expected to install expensive infrastructure and commit to costly ongoing maintenance.

I will be closely monitoring each aspect of change Central Otago’s water assets are facing.

Anyone wanting to discuss the future of the Manuherikia River can do by contacting any of my three electorate offices.

They include my new Alexandra office at 61 Tarbert St, which will officially open on August 27.