This week Councils around New Zealand will decide whether they agree with the Government’s proposed 3 Waters “reform”. Christchurch City Council is considering a staff report at a Special Council meeting on Monday. The paper is really good and the mayor’s letter to the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, is superb. I have reprinted it in full in today’s notes.
I have been around Local Government for many years. I have never, ever, seen a government promoting such poorly thought through legislation affecting local government. The numbers on which the reforms are justified are vague and challengeable. The justification for the reforms in the cabinet papers is generalised and challengeable. The structure for the 4 companies into which all the water assets of all councils in New Zealand will be transferred simply is the worst designed company structure I have ever seen. It is totally undemocratic and will be remote from us the people who rely on the water system to serve us. Locally. If the structures being proposed are forced on local government it would be possible to privatise our water in the future
The Mayor of Christchurch Lianne Dalziel, a former cabinet member, has referred to the cabinet papers as having made “heroic assumptions”. That summarises things very accurately.
Over the past few weeks, on the back of the well-attended Tuesday Club zoom session on the 3 Waters reform, we have been joining up local government leaders around the country. Our conversations have arrived at the following points:
- That we support the Governments higher standards for Three Waters infrastructure, what we challenge is the funding and governance models.
- That a local or regional three waters model includes co-governance with Iwi/Mana Whenua and should be locally/regionally co-created.
- That Councils support suspending, or abandoning, work on the proposed 4 Entity model.
- That first the Government conclude the Local Government Reform work, including the important issue of Funding for Local Government before any consideration to remove 3 waters from Council Control.
- That the Government release LGNZ from the Heads of Agreement (in its current form), and any other agreements related to 3 waters reform.
- That Local Government work together with LGNZ, Iwi/Mana Whenua and Councils to co-create policy and governance options that will achieve improved outcomes, with a priority on local and regional solutions that respect enhance democratic processes.
- That a range of options to deliver the best outcomes for communities is co-created between Government, Iwi and Local Government (LGNZ and Councils) for consultation with communities.
In all the conversations there was much discussion on the following matters:
- Challenging pretext that any option must require balance sheet separation.
- Challenging benefits of such large-scale proposals.
- Questioning that just a single option has been put forward.
- Challenging the accuracy or robustness of the financial assumptions.
Today in the Tuesday Club notes I have continued analysing different aspects of the proposed 3 Waters “reforms”. I have had many emails supporting the Tuesday Club interest in this badly designed legislation. Local government reps at council level have had an onslaught of emails letting them know that they want the water assets owned, and controlled, locally.
However, cabinet ministers in this city are stating that they are not receiving emails objecting to the proposals. Here’s your chance. Write to them and tell them what you think. Whether you agree with what is being proposed, or don’t. The two cabinet ministers in Christchurch’s email addresses are:
Also contact your local MP and tell them what you think, but it’s essential that cabinet ministers hear what you are thinking. They will be making the decision about whether the state will steal our assets.
Here’s what Labour Party policy in the last election was:
• Labour will reform New Zealand’s drinking water and wastewater system and upgrade water infrastructure to create jobs across the country.
This didn’t tell us they were going to take our assets off us and put them into companies over which we will have little, if any, influence.
It’s puzzling why Labour MPs have been stern toward Labour City Councillors. Particularly at a meeting this week, I believe. It’s very interesting that the Chair of the People’s Choice political grouping in Local Government, Joe Davies, said in the Star this week about the water reforms:
I’ve not seen an issue that unified local government in such a way. Right, left, whatever political wing people are from, the just like “this is too much”.
Good on you Joe. Don’t let central government politicians tell you how to think.