December 2018 - Chairman's Report

7 Dec 2018, 2:06 PM

Strategic issues

State Highway 15

I recently had the opportunity to drive from Whangārei to Kaikohe via State Highway 15. NZTA has made some significant improvements to the road surface on this route over the last few months. The fact that these improvements have been made 100% through taxpayer investment and not 50% through ratepayer investment highlights the value of the creation of this new State Highway for Northland’s ratepayers.

Removing the need for ratepayer support for this highway should allow the Whangarei District Council and the Far North District Council to reinvest more ratepayers’ funds in improving other local roads.

3 Waters Reform

Under pressure from city and major district councils, the government appears to have backed away from its initial proposals to create a small number of water supplying entities across the country. This would have required the transfer of the water reticulation assets of district and unitary authorities into entities similar to Watercare in Auckland.

Whilst this option as a means of addressing the current deficiencies in drinking water infrastructure and service delivery appears to have been delayed, government has transferred its focus on to the regulation of water supplies and wastewater treatment systems, proposing the transfer of many of the functions of regional councils to either the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or some other newly created regulatory body. 

The creation of another government agency seems to be the standard response of central government bureaucracy when addressing any malfunctions within government at any level.

Acknowledging that these concerns from government are driven out of the inquiry into Havelock North drinking water and its finding that regulatory enforcement was not properly carried out in that instance, simply focusing the blame on the regional council sector is not entirely fair. The Ministry of Health actually has the main regulatory role in enforcement of drinking water quality standards in water supplies.

Care needs to be taken in considering and implementing any changes to the enforcement of drinking water quality standards, that further bureaucracy is not created which could result in a loss of role definition and clarity of who is responsible for enforcement. The net result could well be an increase in costs to the community in monetary terms while potentially compromising health standards.