$4.2 million ‘better off financing’ not buying Ashburton’s Three Waters backing

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Ashburton County Council has received $2.3 million in its $4.19 million Three Waters “better off” funding to help move Ashburton’s rail freight hub to Fairton, and receiving the funds will not require the council to resistance to the reforms.
Photo: LDR/Jonathan Leask

Ashburton District Council will not be muzzled by receiving $4.19 million in Three Waters ‘better off’ funding.

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said the council will continue to oppose the Three Waters reforms, as they stand, but would not pass up the opportunity to receive valuable government funding.

“It’s money that’s on the table and if we don’t take it, we don’t get the chance,” Brown said.

“Three Waters is now legislated, so under this government it’s happening, but we can still express our opposition.”

The funding will be spent completing additional projects with no impact on taxpayers, he said.

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The council submitted seven projects for the first tranche of the government’s Three Waters Reform support package, called better off funding.

The council attempted to include an amendment to the agreement that confirmed that the council can maintain its opposition without jeopardizing funding.

Chief executive Hamish Riach said the Home Office did not accept it or any of the proposed changes to the funding agreement.

He said the DIA has recognized that signing the agreement in the format required by the DIA does not prevent councils from independently expressing their views on the reform programme.

“These comments from DIA clearly give the council confidence that we can oppose the reforms as they stand, while accepting the better off funding for the benefit of the community,” Riach said.

The DIA-approved funding includes $2.3 million to help move Ashburton’s rail freight hub from downtown to the soon-to-be-constructed Fairfield Freight Hub in Fairton.

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That includes the council’s contributions to the $14 million project led by the Wareing Group, which also has a $2.5 million government contribution from Waka Kotahi’s NZ Upgrade Program.

Leanne Macdonald, manager of the Council’s business support group, said the projects had to meet certain criteria to be eligible for funding, including that they could not be used for Three Waters projects or projects already budgeted for in the year- or long-term plan.

Macdonald said that now that funding has been approved, work will begin on the projects and the DIA will monitor their progress and manage funding.

The council is eligible for an additional $12.6 million in enhanced funding in the second tranche, due in 2024.

The council will also receive $437,000 in transition support to assist with the Three Waters transition work it is tasked with doing.

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Better Off Project Financing

  • $2.3 million: Fairfield freight hub
  • $900,000: Additional new footpaths around the perimeter of Ashburton, Methven and Rakaia.
  • $250,000: New toilets at Digby Park in Ashburton.
  • $200,000: Urgent repairs to five playgrounds
  • $200,000: changing rooms in the Rakaia and Hinds pools, water treatment upgrades for all five district pools, and design work for a future Tinwald pool upgrade
  • $190,000: Equipment in specialized areas at the new Ashburton Public Library and Civic Center, Te Pātaka a kā Tuhituhi and Te Waharoa a Hine Paaka.
  • $150,000: To move the South African War Memorial from Baring Square East to Baring Square West, as part of a major redevelopment of Baring Square East.

Local democracy reporting is public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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