Mayoral Column – Dannevirke’s Impounded Water Supply

06 November 2023

Last week there was good debate amongst Councillors regarding the decision to delay physical works on Dannevirke’s Impounded Water Supply. Instead, it was decided to install additional raw and treated water storage to increase resilience while we wait for the results of critical geological testing.

The costs are significant and there is justified concern around the debt this will leave future generations. We must get this right and many of the 3 Waters discussions from Government came from Councils’ over placing emphasis on affordability and debt versus public health, the environment and long-term strategic thinking. This debt is intergenerational but getting the repair right is critical so we can enjoy business and residential growth with a reliable water supply. Boiled water notices create enormous disruption for so many, taking away from all the great things we have here in the Tararua District.

One of the key questions asked was ‘can Dannevirke residents pay or have a targeted rate’? You will have heard from us many times about the challenges of having seven water and wastewater treatment plants, all with different sources, consents, and operational costs. No town in Tararua can afford to meet these costs this alone, especially with consents due for renewal so regularly.  We have always cross subsidised each other and prioritised based on need. We currently have Eketāhuna wastewater, Pahiatua wastewater and Woodville wastewater projects in the pipeline with a combined projected cost of approximately $15 million and a changing regulatory world so we know how essential it is to care for our waterways.

With this in mind, the November Finance and Performance Committee will focus on our debt headroom (the gap between our debt and ability to borrow) and those capital projects which must proceed and the subsequent increase in operational costs of each town’s water and wastewater plants, on top of our usual management reports.

Council does have sufficient borrowing headroom for this investment within our self-imposed borrowing limits and as part of our Long-Term Plan we are looking to increase our self-imposed debt limit to the maximum. The largest contributor to our debt has been, and will continue to be, from water and wastewater projects. Changes to regulatory standards is to ensure public health and benefit of the environment although the consents being received are very short, considering the investment required.

The current rating model will not meet the costs councils will incur in the future and the ongoing discussions about funding mechanisms between local and central government is critical moving forward.

All Council meetings are now online and myself and Councillors are happy to answer questions. We look forward to the public meeting on the 15 November and sharing further results and information as it becomes available.

Noho ora  mai - all the best.

Tracey Collis - Mayor