Media release - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mayor Helen Lash welcomed the opportunity to speak to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee on the Water Services Legislation Bill on Friday 3 March. She was joined by Chief Executive Simon Bastion, Peter Cuff, Chair of Westroads Ltd and Graeme Kelly General Manager of Westroads Ltd.
“This is such an important issue to our community that we wanted to make sure that the Select Committee not only read our submission but heard from us face-to-face. Our initial point is that as members of Communities 4 Local Democracy we support their submission and are asking the government to pause and reflect on the legislation until after the election in October, before it’s too far through to pull back on.
Our main concern, if the government continues to plough on, is the effect on our CCOs. Because Westroads Ltd is involved in three waters civil construction and maintenance there is a risk that the way the legislation is drafted means that some of their business would be transferred to the new South Island Water Entity. Given that the dividends from the business offset about 3.5% of rates each year we are worried about the overall impact on rates.
Implications for the business itself are also very concerning – 30% of the Westroads staff are predominantly employed in three waters, and 40% of the business revenue relates to three waters. Impacts of the Bill would be extremely challenging to Westroads Ltd’s business and would certainly impact on the level of dividend to council.
The uncertainty that staff face is incredibly unfair. It is already difficult to recruit to specialist three waters roles in the district and we know that current staff do not all wish to transfer to a new entity while there is political upheaval. Staff at Westroads Ltd play a vital role in civil defence and recovery. Reduced staff will impact the ability for Westroads to respond in any Civil Defence situation or adverse weather event when timing is critical.
We asked that the Select Committee took our concerns into account and provide clarity for Councils and our CCOs about the ongoing status of our assets. At the very least they could let the current service contract for water services run to its end date – this would provide ample time for the new entity to gauge the future requirements in fulfilling its obligations.”
Council’s written submission to the Water Services Legislation Bill is available on our website.
Media enquiries to:
Emma Rae, Strategy and Communications Advisor