Mayor: privatising water scheme should be simpler

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Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher has labelled the cost of a referendum on the privatisation of the Dunrobin water supply “ridiculous”.
Several months ago, Dunrobin Water Management Inc approached the council and asked for ownership of the water supply to be transferred to the group.
That request was approved by the council in October.
The approval was conditional on Dunrobin Water Management meeting the costs of transferring ownership, which required a referendum in accordance with the Local Electoral Act.
Voting documents for the referendum will be posted out to those enrolled from June 23.
However, Dunrobin Water Management asked the council to pay for the referendum as a “cost of democracy”.
At a recent meeting of the council’s customer services committee, it was decided the cost of the referendum, estimated to be $4489, should be split between Dunrobin water supply users and all other Waitaki district ratepayers.
The water supply is connected to 26 properties, comprising 24 households, one forestry block and one leased block with no dwelling.
About 56 residents use the supply, which has been maintained, upgraded and operated by Dunrobin Water Management for the last 27 years, while the council has collected no rates for it.
Mr Kircher said the cost of the referendum, at about $170 per vote, was far too high, given those who used the supply had essentially already agreed to take control of the supply.
“This is obviously a ridiculous cost. Even if the actual cost is quite a bit less than this, it still underlines just how bizarre the prescribed process is, when it costs so much to get a formal decision even though all users have already indicated they are in favour of privatisation.”He believed a different process should be used.
“When the vast majority of users on a small scheme have clearly indicated their preference, it could be confirmed through the use of a petition-type mechanism.”Mr Kircher said there was no benefit to the council in the privatisation of the supply.
“If that’s what the community wants, we would be silly not to allow it.”