A $10 million cut to the Three Waters Investment Programme budget has been approved by the Waitaki District Council.
The budget for 2022-24 was dropped from $82.5m to $72.9m to help staff complete programmed works within the council’s Long Term Plan timeframes.
The council adopted the $82.5m Three Water Investment Programme in December to fast-track completion of Three Waters projects in the Long Term Plan ahead of central Government reforms and the water delivery service transitioning to a new entity.
But after re-examining the individual projects, and the capacity to deliver them by July 1, 2024, budgets were slashed and some projects downsized when it became clear some would not be delivered in that timeframe because there just was not the capacity.
To speed up priority projects, budgets were increased. Those deemed less important were downgraded.
Two new projects — investigating Hampden wastewater and providing Maheno with a connection to the Oamaru water supply — were also added.
Council water services and waste manager Marty Pacey said the reprioritisation ensured the projects at the top of the new list were completed as soon as possible, and not pushed back by the incoming Three Waters entity.
Councillor Jim Hopkins said the new entity would be saddled with the same statutory requirements as the council, so the only risk in speeding up works ahead of the Long Term Plan was that the new entity ‘‘may do things that are not our priorities’’.
However, he said the flip side was that by bringing Long Term Plan works forward, ‘‘we are potentially bringing costs to residents earlier’’.
Mr Pacey said the projects were being funded by loans, so would not affect ratepayers directly.
He said Oamaru had a much bigger supply catchment now, so satellite towns including Hampden, Moeraki, Herbert and Kakanui were all connected with asbestos cement pipe. That created a bigger annual cost.
Mayor Gary Kircher said there was a lot of uncertainty about Three Waters, but it was important to carry out the water upgrades sooner rather than later.
‘‘We don’t want to become the lower priority [to the new entity], because we’ve got a scheme that’s only got a couple of hundred consumers on it, so it’s good we go and get the work done now.’’
It was also good to see the project connecting other parts of the district to the Oamaru scheme, as the council was doing its best for the community, he said.
But he warned there was a lot going on and that a political eye needed to be kept on the reforms.