24 February 2017
Management of stock water scheme to go to a referendum
Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks is refuting claims the Council wants to gain control of the Otama rural water supply scheme.
Scheme committee chairman Tom Affleck has been critical of the Council over discussions about the future management of the scheme, saying it was hindering the committee and left consumers feeling powerless.
Mr Hicks said the Council has been trying for over a year to amicably reach a decision on how to best manage the scheme.
“While it is a stock-water scheme, what is critically important is that the untreated water is being used by many people in their homes.”
Historically the Council provided the staff and expertise to carry out work at the behest of the committee. This was often at short notice and, at times, at the expense of other planned work elsewhere.
The scheme committee last year decided its best course of action was to separate from the Council entirely and deliver the water as an independent organisation.
“We had no problem with this as long as it’s what the users wanted,” Mr Hicks said.
However, when the Council looked into implementing this, it discovered that under the Local Government Act 2002 water schemes managed by a local authority as at 1 July 2003, and supplying more than 200 consumers, must remain in the control of the council.
“We had our interpretation of the Act confirmed by a lawyer, which we shared with the scheme committee.
“For whatever reason the committee sought its own legal advice from Chen Palmer Partners.”
The Council agreed to a request from the committee for its legal expenses to be paid out of the Otama scheme account.
Mr Hicks said it was also discovered that the scheme committee may have been around for 46 years but no-one had formalised its existence by forming an incorporated society, trust or company. It also lacks a constitution to guide it and a bank account.
“In short, it has no legal identity and no framework to give surety to scheme users.”
Mr Hicks stressed the Council had no interest in gaining ownership of the scheme.
“Actually, it’s quite the reverse. However, the law makes it quite clear we cannot remove ourselves from some form of control.
“Whatever structure management of the scheme takes it must be lawful, sustainable, have consumer representation and, above all, be safe for those who use it. “
The incident in Havelock North shows we need to be careful about untreated water supplies being used in the home, Mr Hicks said.
“Our main concern is the potential risk of untreated water being used in people’s homes.”
Earlier this month the Council had to issue a boil water notice for the scheme after elevated levels of e-coli were found during routine weekly testing.
It was recently agreed to put the fate of the scheme in the hands of users, with a referendum later this year. The outcome will be binding on both parties.