OPINION: Local Government NZ (LGNZ) has long advocated for privately owned rural water supplies to stay in community ownership - as part of the Three Waters Reform.
“We wholeheartedly agree with the intent of the three waters reform, and absolutely want to ensure rural communities have access to clean drinking water and not have another Hastings issue happen again, but there are a number of small individual farm owners and water users, which are being unintentionally captured by the Bill” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning.
She says the submission explains, through case studies, how an alternative pathway can be sought for farmers and water users that still delivers on the intent of the Government’s bill.
“Around 2,600 of our irrigators are inadvertently deemed suppliers of drinking water. Water sampling set out in the Bill would collectively cost them about $16 million.”
Winning says that figure is likely an underestimation if dryland farming and other uses are taken into account.
“Some of the reasons they are inadvertently captured by this bill because, due to historic arrangements or very fast civic development, there is no water supply in place on their farms or in that area; in many cases they provide for urban supply or to a regional council, or irrigation distribution systems like pipes or channels are used to deliver water which in turn becomes a drinking water supply,” she says.
Winning adds that IrrigationNZ is also concerned about the implementation of the bill, because regional councils are already stretched trying to roll out new water regulations.
“IrrigationNZ appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback on this important bill.
“As the provisions of the bill are debated and then finalised, we are hopeful that decision-makers remember these small rural drinking water suppliers and support organisations/farms that are providing a service that is not currently met by council supply.”