Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan said National’s plan has a lot of similarities to the previous one, but the new one will just take longer and cost more.
“I feel like we’re back where we were three years ago when Labour brought out their great proposal,” he said. “It’s going to be a great period of time before the efficiencies that are needed kick into play.”
Kieran McAnulty, the previous Local Government Minister and Labour’s spokesperson, said the new scheme is “stupid”.
“It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make sense and it’s going to result in higher rates,” said McAnulty.
Local Government Minister Simeon Brown couldn’t say how much it would cost ratepayers, but it would enable councils to “access the long-term funding and financing that they need to spread out the significant infrastructure they need”.
National’s new ‘local water done well’ plan will allow councils to buddy up and merge water assets in council-controlled organisations, scrapping Labour’s 10 mandated water entities.
But $1.2 billion has already been sunk into the water reforms.
“The last Government thought there was a magic money tree that they could use to throw around to apparently solve problems,” said Brown.
McAnulty said overall about $185 billion needs to be spent.
“We found a way in which we could do that in an affordable way but it required massive structural overhaul that costs money. We don’t apologise for that $1.2 billion because it had to be done.”
On Monday, Brown said $1.2 billion was mostly sunk costs, the price the Government had to pay to scrap Labour’s old plan.
But Newshub has obtained details of exactly where that water money went, including $30 million that went to drinking water supplies for rural communities, $73.7m on supporting iwi and the local government sector, and $183.9m on local government policy and related services for programme costs.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the Government would try to recover some of that.
“We will try be as efficient as we can. If there’s things that that money’s been spent on that we can repurpose we can try redo all of that.”
There was also $215 million for building operating, corporate and tech systems, and $207.6 million to councils for the ‘better off funding’ sweetener for community projects.
But the lion’s share – $527 million – was spent on grants for water infrastructure.
Brown wouldn’t say that money was wasted.
“Well no, this is typical of the prior Government where they spent a huge amount of money but actually failed to deliver their reforms.”
Not all the water cash flushed down the dunny then.