Cost of water in Hawke's Bay could rise dramatically, according to new review

Hawke’s Bay’s water costs could be in for a dramatic rise over the next decade, according to a million-dollar review.

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Water costs in the region could be in for a dramatic rise over the next decade, according to the million-dollar review. Source: 1 NEWS

The delivery of our drinking, waste and storm water is already the subject of Government reform, but there are still many questions about how costs can be made fair for all.

Towns in Central Hawke’s Bay and Wairoa already know the battle to provide water services to their towns but a new review dubbed Three Waters has laid their issues bare.

“It is certainly confronting,” Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor Alex Walker said on reading the report.

“We’ve got a couple of water supplies we can’t even get there and do the work, just because the goal posts keep changing and they are still moving,” Wairoa Mayor Craig Little told 1 NEWS.

An independent review commissioned into the state of Hawke's Bay's drinking, waste and storm water has made some big numbers clear.

Local government consultants Morrison Low found under the current delivery model, council infrastructure costs are estimated to double over the next decade from a projected $313 million to $605 million.

Households in Central Hawke’s Bay and Wairoa could pay over $4000 in rates a year for water.

The report writer Dan Bonifont says that is unaffordable for the average household.

“The cost in Waiora would exceed any of the international benchmarks for what is an unaffordable service so there is a significant unaffordability challenge to be met around the Hawke’s Bay," he said.

Mayor Walker added: “Its actually just not possible because we think about in our towns and the breadth of socio-economic status that we have across our communities. Imagine in our lowest values rental properties to be having that type of financial burden on them that will be passed to renters. That’s just not sustainable.” 

The review has cost taxpayers about $800,000, with Hawke’s Bay ratepayers covering another $200,000 on top.

But it's a million dollar review that's going nowhere, as councils involved have already committed to a Government reform programme.

The report's recommendation is for a regional delivery model, where assets are owned by a central organisation, but still controlled by councils, in a bid to even out costs. 

It’s the elephant in the room for Napier Mayor Kristin Wise, as her ratepayers would pay more.

“The regionalisation of costs on the current model is that we would be subsidising the other councils and that’s a conversation that our community will be very keen to be involved in.”

The Government's keen to explore something similar, a multi-regional model in its major Three Waters reforms.

Councils like Wairoa are wary of what those reforms could mean.

“We really want to retain our levels of service, our staffing levels, our expertise, they have to stay in Waiora,” Little says.

One thing is agreed on: the way has to change for water in Hawke's Bay.