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Government offers $761m to councils to fix water issues - if they opt in to water reform

The Government has this morning announced new funding of $761 million will be available to councils to help them fix their water issues - so long as they opt in the Government's water reform programme.

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Ms Ardern said dealing with infrastructure issues is difficult because governments work in three-year cycles. Source: 1 NEWS

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta made the announcement at the site of the bore in Havelock North which was determined to be the caused of the campylobacter outbreak in 2016.

The outbreak made about 5000 people sick and killed up to four, leading to the chlorination of Napier's water supply and ongoing water quality issues.

The pool of $761 million would go towards councils upgrading or modernising their water services, including drinking water, waste water, and storm water facilities.

However, councils will only have access to the funding if they opt in to the Government's wider water reform programme.

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Jacinda Ardern announced today $761 million in funding for the project. Source: 1 NEWS

"New Zealand's public water infrastructure is run down and needs upgrading, but local government often doesn’t have the resources needed to fix it," Ms Ardern said.

"This $761 million investment will kick-start much needed work to bring our drinking, waste and storm water infrastructure up to scratch.

"Investing in water infrastructure is about investing in the health of New Zealanders - four years ago more than 5000 people got sick and up to four died in the Havelock North campylobacter outbreak and we don't want to see that happen again.

"Our problems with drinking water aren't limited to the Hawke's Bay - at least 34,000 New Zealanders become ill from drinking tap water every year and many communities around the country cannot drink their water without first boiling it.

"For example Hawke's Bay councils will receive in the region of $50 million between them to assist with their water infrastructure upgrade work."

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the outbreak was "a time we'll never forget" and that "we have welcomed the opportunity for our region to work collaboratively and in tandem with our government."

Ms Hazlehurst said Hastings City Council had incurred a debt of about $60m over the past four years working to upgrade infrastructure following the outbreak, and that the investment was very welcome.

Ms Mahuta said that councils across the country are facing "massive looming costs" to keep their water systems safe and working, and that consolidating these services under a national regulator will make meeting those costs easier.

"The smaller rural and provincial councils, are not well-placed to meet these [costs]," Ms Mahuta said.

"Today's announcement will lend the reform programme's initial stages very real impetus and Councils will need to sign up to the wider reform agenda in order to access the Government's funding."

Councils that do not opt in to the reforms will still be required to meet drinking water and wastewater standard which will be set by the new central government regulator - Taumata Arowai.

Taumata Arowai will also receive $51 million in support from today's allocation, and $30 million has been set aside for rural drinking water supplies.