Council considers $1.55m community funding boost from Three Waters ‘Better Off’ Fund

Copy of Community Grants for Not For Profits 1

On 14 December Kaikōura District Council (KDC) will make a decision on a recent $1.55m offer of funding towards 14 community projects from the Government’s Three Waters ‘Better Off’ Funding. 

Kaikōura District Council opposes the Three Waters Reforms in their current form.  It lodged its formal submission to the Select Committee opposing the Water Entities Bill back in July and remains an active member of Communities for Local Democracy (C4LD). 

The Government’s Better Off fund is a $2bn package of funding to invest in community wellbeing.  It does not pay for three waters infrastructure. Kaikōura is eligible for $1.55m now and a further $4.55 million from 1st July 2024.

Community amenities, housing, sports, and tourism are in line for a potential boost from the funding, shortlisted by Kaikōura District Council from a wish list that could not be accommodated in the Long Term Plan and are unlikely to be funded in the short to medium term.

The list includes; upgrading play equipment and surfacing at Gooches Beach playground, upgrading the toilets and creating a public meeting space at West End carpark, providing a toilet for Churchill Park, support for the new sports facility at Takahanga Reserve, seed funding for an asphalted pump track, support towards International Dark Skies accreditation, additional upgrades to the scout hall and Kekerengu town hall, a feasibility study for papakainga housing, a Kaikōura township flood protection feasibility study, reseal of the community parking area for the pensioner units, and upgrade to the Kaikōura Lookout.

At its August meeting Council decided to apply for the first portion of $1.55m to satisfy a September deadline for applications.  It noted in an accompanying letter that it would still strongly oppose aspects of the Three Waters Reforms publicly.   It also reserved the right to not sign the final agreement depending on whether Government accepted requested changes to the draft funding agreement.

The DIA have now informed Kaikōura District Council that its application for the shortlisted projects has been successful, but have confirmed that they are not prepared to make changes to their draft funding agreement.  Council will therefore make its final decision on whether to accept the $1.55m funding or not in an extraordinary meeting on 14 December.

Mayor Mackle said “Kaikōura District Council will continue to oppose the Three Waters Reforms in its current form whatever our decision on this funding.   We have to be realistic that Government is aggressively pushing the reform legislation through before the election next year and it is very clear to me that the Government is not listening to Councils.”

The first Bill establishing the new Water Entities will become law next month and a second Bill on how they will operate will be introduced before Christmas.

Mayor Mackle continued, “We are also weighing up the fact that $1bn of this funding has been borrowed by the new Three Waters Entities.  It will be paid back by future income from water users.  So if we refused the funding and the reforms are passed, our community will be repaying a loan that they didn’t even benefit from.”

 “We can refuse this funding on principle because of its association with Three Waters Reforms.  Or we can accept the funding and deliver on some incredibly worthwhile community projects whilst continuing to make our voices heard.”

Mayor Mackle finished by saying, “It’s a shame that Government has clearly not listened once again and is putting Councils in this difficult position, but we are going to focus on the bigger picture and ultimately Council will decide what is the best option for our community in the long run.”