How govt reforms affect Waitaki

Before the October local body elections, Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley has highlighted seven issues, challenges and opportunities the district has ahead of it, in a pre-election report. This week, he shares his thoughts with the Oamaru Mail on government reforms.

With voting papers arriving in letterboxes from today, you have the opportunity to shape the future of your community, your district, and your council.

Our pre-election report (available on the council’s website) informs voters and candidates of the key issues facing Waitaki, ahead of this year’s local government elections.

For the past six weeks, I have discussed an issue each week, the final of which is government reforms.

A number of reforms have been proposed by central government that are at various stages of review and development. Of these, three reform and review processes are in progress that will impact local government significantly — Three Waters Reform, Resource Management Act (RMA), and the Future for Local Government Review.

In response to the Three Waters Reform, the council has formally opposed the Government-proposed solution to set up new water entities. The council has accelerated the planned investment in water services to residents set out in the long-term plan so that if water services transfer, Waitaki’s services are in the best possible position.

The council is currently also working with other councils to ensure that if a new water entity is set up covering Waitaki, it is in a position to deliver the services our residents need.

The proposed reforms to the RMA will see spatial planning removed from districts and councils and be undertaken at a regional level. The council has made representations with a view to ensuring that the new process takes account of local differences and needs and that the voice of communities is heard.

Under the current Resource Management Act, we are in the process of reviewing the Waitaki District Plan. The draft District Plan has been released for public consultation and the new council will consider the hundreds of responses to that consultation.

The new council will need to respond to the Ministerial Future for Local Government Inquiry Panel’s recommendations which will be released soon after being elected, and then consider the panel’s recommendations to Parliament. In the future, Government decisions may change the council’s role, functions, and structure.

Within the council, we have started a transformation programme to respond to the reforms, the changing needs of our district and communities and to ensure we are a modern, effective, and efficient organisation. This coupled with the three reforms presents the largest changes to local government and local governance since the abolition of the provinces in 1877 and must be considered carefully by elected members.

If you have not enrolled to vote yet, you can cast a special vote. Special voting is open today (Friday, September 16) to noon on Saturday, October 8 and available at Waitaki District Council HQ on Thames St — all you need to do is bring in your ID. Our electoral officer will also be visiting Waihemo, Kurow, Omarama and Otematata to help with special voting. Keep an eye on the Waitaki District Council website and Facebook page for details.