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Bid to impress with water work


A beefed-up programme of infrastructure planning was designed to help make the Dunedin City Council a “standout” water entity and boost the city’s chances of attracting post-reform investment.

Robust long-term investment planning could increase the likelihood a new water entity made Dunedin a priority for Three Waters spending, it was argued in a 2020 report the council kept secret.

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Dunedin could also be an attractive head office for a multi-region water entity, it was suggested.

In the end, implementation of the programme was delayed for reasons that ranged from last year’s Waikouaiti lead contamination scare to responding to Government information requests.

The previously confidential report was included in an infrastructure services committee agenda to be discussed by councillors next week.

The Government intends to set up water entities to take over council activities.

Reform has been controversial, partly because of scepticism that distant entities will be responsive to local concerns.

The option approved by the council was described at the time as a proactive, comprehensive transition work programme and the council will decide next week whether to keep on with that approach.

If it does, the council would need to get through the work before July 2024 and determine where $8.8 million to cover it should come from.

The council is expected to receive about $46 million from a government package intended to enhance the city’s wellbeing which could be a source.

A disadvantage is less money from this package would be available for other council initiatives.

Among the advantages listed by council staff for keeping going with the accelerated programme is that “with well-considered investment plans, there will be improved probability that Dunedin Three Waters infrastructure is funded and delivered by the new entity”.

Another option is to fund the work through debt.

This was not recommended by council staff.

The Government has indicated council debt related to Three Waters assets will transfer to the new entities.

However, it is unclear how debt transfer will occur and what criteria will be applied.

If the council decides against implementing the accelerated programme, Three Waters work could be constrained.

In this scenario, some future projects could be delayed.



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