I’m really looking forward to attending the Young Growers event on Thursday at Kaiaponi Farms. Tairawhiti has always punched above our weight in every aspect and this holds particularly true for our hard working rangatahi and horticultural sector. I wish the participants luck!

There are no council meetings this week, however there was one huge announcement made last week; the three waters reform.

I have pored over the documents that have been released and on the surface of the information the rationale seems quite compelling and logical.

First off: money. If the government’s figures are to be believed, the projected savings for whanau under the reforms are substantial in comparison to if water infrastructure remains run under the 67 separate territorial authorities. Sounds attractive on the surface but in my three terms as an elected member, I’ve seen many a budget projection go askew.

Secondly: meeting National Standards. These water entities will be closer to the purse strings in order to meet expected national standards. Ask any council in Aotearoa and we’ll all tell you, that our communities are passionate to meet better environmental standards for our regions but that they are also cumbersome because they are centrally created, but regionally funded. Costly to the ratepayer and even more so for a region with a low ratepayer base like us here in Te Tairawhiti.

The government’s premise is correct; water infrastructure is very expensive. Our council has made massive in roads on our water infrastructure over the decades; our wastewater treatment plant, the upgrade of our city pipes, water supply that meets drinking water standards to Whatatutu and Te Karaka; future plans for a wetland, future plans for Alternative Use and Disposal.

And it’s our future inability to influence our future plans which gives me the most worry.

The proposal puts our district in with 900,000 other people from the central/lower East Coast of the North Island and the top of the South Island. We will make up approximately 5.5% of the proposed regions population, it’s hard to not think that the Tairāwhiti voice will be heavily diluted. This is a logical conclusion to make.

I will be worried that as a council, we won’t be empowered to be accountable to our people.

Take roading for example; our State Highways are looked at as a national network, I get the rationale for that; we don’t want the standard of highway to suddenly change when we’re travelling between regions. However, as an elected member of council, by you the constituency, I would rather have all of our roads administered regionally because then you as a Tairawhiti resident would be able to hold me directly to account. At the moment, that decision-making is an arms length from me. I still get to have conversations into that space, but it’s not like being able to call the shots. In this same vein, I worry that this may dilute our council’s ability to meet our Tiriti obligations in good faith with our Tairawhiti Iwi. I worry this may limit our ability to be innovative in the Alternative Use and Disposal space and that we will be boxed in with BAU infrastructure with no ability to be aspirational.

I get that the reforms are all still high level, and I look forward to seeing the detail. As I said, the devil is in the detail and I will be keeping a sharp eye out to see what the detail is in order to see if it’s a devil in disguise, or a devil of a deal.

Lastly, I want to wish my daughter Te Kotuhi a happy birthday. She turns 18 today. Everyday you make me proud my darling.

As always, it’s a privilege to do this work on your behalf Te Tairawhiti.