< November 2021 newsletter


Outrage at power grab - “a dark day for democracy”

"A deceitful, lying pack of bastards," exclaimed Masterton councillor Tina Nixon on hearing that the government will force councils to hand control of their water assets to four mega water entities, despite the previous promise to Councils that they could choose to opt in or out of the proposed reform programme. 

Further south, Christchurch city councillor James Gough said he was in “utter disbelief” at the decision, which he described as “abhorrent on every level”. He said it was “a dark day for democracy in New Zealand”.

Even Stuff has joined the chorus condemning this dictatorial action by the government, commenting in a recent editorial: 

"Opposition parties, and more than a few local bodies, will portray this as a jackbooted disregard for democratic accountability and an unconscionable seizure of assets that had been built up by generations of ratepayers," it said.

It has become patently obvious the government had no intention of listening to councils - that the six week “consultation” process with local authorities was a complete sham. The Cabinet paper Three Waters Reforms: Further Decisions, seeking agreement to proceed with a legislated 'all in' approach to reform, was signed off on the 18th of October. On Friday the 22nd of October, four days later, the summary of the submissions from local government were completed and sent to the minister’s office. Therefore, the Cabinet papers were written well before the summary of submissions from local government had been completed.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon, expressing his disappointment with the forced decision:

 “We approached this review in good faith and hoped the Government would show similar good faith and respect the decision of the majority of councils to opt-out of the reform”.

What is happening next

Over the next three years, three bills will be introduced to Parliament establishing how the entities will operate. The first one, the Water Services Entities Bill, will be introduced in December, and be passed next year. Work is underway to establish a working group of local government, iwi, and water industry experts to work through elements of entity design. 

The only time the public will be invited by the government to have a say will be during the select committee process starting early 2022.

This legislation is to be followed by the implementation bill, which will be introduced next year, and finally an economic regulation bill, which will be introduced in early 2023. See timeline diagram below:

We at Democracy Action believe the plan to hand over control of our water to four mega entities is fundamentally flawed. For instance, under the government’s proposed model, the undemocratic governance structure, and the question of the ownership of the water assets are both highly contentious policies. Nor has Mahuta ruled out the introduction of water royalties.

Some water reform is needed, but there are other ways to do it. 

So, what can we do? 

Join us to fight this! We believe we can still win, but the only way we are going to do so is through sheer “people power.” It is time to stand up, speak out.

Democracy Action has joined with other groups to fight this terrible plan.  We are planning further action over the coming months.

To help, you can:

  • Forward information about the Three Waters plan to your friends and family.  

  • Join the Groundswell protest with your signs and banners on November 21 – subject to covid restrictions.

  • Deliver ‘Stop Three Waters’ flyers in your neighbourhood. Please contact us for copies.

  • Form local action groups: 
    • Lobby your MP – especially if Labour. MP’s contact details are available HERE. The Labour seats of East Coast, Hamilton East, Hamilton West, Hutt South, Ilam, Maungakiekie, Nelson, New Plymouth, Northcote, Northland, Ōtaki, Rangitata, Takanini, Tukituki, Upper Harbour, Wairarapa, Whanganui, and Whangarei are vulnerable to voter backlash.
    • Protest outside Labour electorate offices – subject to Covid restrictions.
  • Make a submission on the Economic Regulation and Consumer Protection for Three Waters discussion document. MBIE is consulting on how economic regulation and consumer protection for the future three waters system should be designed. “We want to hear from New Zealanders about whether economic regulation and consumer protection is needed for three waters, and if so, how this should look.” See more on the MBIE website, HERE. Submissions close 20 December.

Further reading

Visit: NZ Water Alliance website 

Waimakariri District Council Three Waters Reform page

Commentary 

Graham Adams: The government is stumbling towards disaster over Three Waters

Media coverage

NZ Herald: Three Waters backlash: Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says 'little benefit for Aucklanders', Winston Peters calls it 'a blatant power grab'

Stuff: Water reforms a 'must have' for sector, but councils furious at loss of control

To recap: 

  • Central Government is reviewing the regulation and supply of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater (the three waters) in New Zealand. Most three waters assets and services are currently owned and delivered by local councils. 
  • Last year the Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme to reform Local Government Three Waters service delivery arrangements. The Government proposes to create four semi-autonomous multi-regional entities, replacing the services currently managed by the 67 councils.
  • Each of these entities would be managed by a three-tier governance structure. Councils and iwi would jointly appoint a regional representative group, who would manage concerns, strategy, and expectations of the entities. This group would appoint an independent selection panel, which would in turn appoint the board which manages and runs the entity. This governance structure which would remove democratic accountability and the loss of direct control by councils over our water services.

Go back to the November 2021 newsletter


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