If it’s good enough for the mayor and councillor to have a week off so will we. There’s no Tuesday Club this week and I am only writing about 3 Waters. Rosemary has done a summary of our conversation about Community Boards and increasing community engagement, and have included a few interesting links.
In regard to Three Waters the government has continued its “let’s ignore public opinion, we know better” approach. I find this absolutely depressing and it will be another step on the path to massive defeat next year for Labour.
Three Waters: How the 3 Mayor’s option for 3 Waters was received:
Last week I applauded the moves by the mayors of Waimakariri, Christchurch and Auckland for promoting an alternative solution to the 3 Waters proposed legislation. Their move was greeted by the government making softly, softly comments which distracted the media for a while.
Not so Bernard Hickey who wrote:
Briefly, for an hour or two yesterday, the Labour Government looked to have been given an off ramp to abandon Three Waters for a much less politically divisive alternative that would have allowed for more investment in and consolidation of water assets, but without the compulsory co-governance or councils losing control.
Instead, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta drove right on past, smiling and waving politely, seemingly unable to disconnect the self-driving software built for them by the policy wonks at Treasury and the Department of Internal Affairs, and powered by Labour’s Māori caucus.
Surprisingly for a median-vote-hugging group that usually course-corrects with the help of focus groups and polling, the sixth Labour Government has decided to barrel on and to hope anti-centralisation and anti-co-governance backlash from the regions has subsided before next year’s elections.
In my view, ignoring the alternative for a much-less-disruptive set of reforms will cement in the loss of provincial and suburban votes that fueled the ‘red wave’ of 2020. Ardern and Mahuta may yet execute a big U-turn to take the off-ramp, but yesterday, the ladies were not for turning.
Here’s what the mayors promoted:
- the creation of Regional Water Organisations (RWOs) that couldn’t be sold outside local authority ownership and would be directly controlled by councils in their region, without the need for an intervening committee, as proposed under Three Waters;
- the RWOs would have access to investment capital through a new Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF), administered by the Government’s Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP), which funded the ultra-fast broadband rollout;
- CIP would act as the lead facilitator of financing and investment and could manage the balance sheet risk at the national level;
- the RWOs would form their own co-governance arrangements at regional level, if opted for by councils, rather than being made compulsory from the centre;
- the RWOs would be subject to regulation by the already-created regulator Taumata Aromai; and,
- smaller rural schemes not in RWOs would be able to apply for capital subsidies via the Water Infrastructure Fund, theMinistry for the Environment and Te Whatu Ora.
The Prime Minister responded to this initiative at her press conference saying:
“But, look, I don’t want to shut down what is, I think, in good faith, an offer here for us to keep working together, because I think the Mayors do have a focus on making sure that their rate payers don’t experience that spike in cost of living. We’ve got the same focus, so let’s see how we can keep working together.”Ardern.
Challenged again on whether the proposed plan breached her bottom lines, she said:
“We’d both rather not traverse a negotiation in this manner, but actually talk directly. But so long as, at its heart, we are all focused on making sure rate payers don’t experience those large projected increases, we have common ground.”Ardern
Bernard then challenged the PM on how open the negotiation would be given she had just ruled out the basic structure of the Mayoral plan.
“Bernard, they’ve made a range of suggestions, and they’ve made them in good faith, and I’d rather us just have conversations with the Mayors directly, rather than traversing it here about their proposals.”Ardern
The PM’s insincerity, when she commented about “they’ve made them in good faith”, was demonstrated this week when the government announced that Tuku Morgan would be heading the 3 Waters body which covered Auckland. This confirms my personal view that this government would not know what “good faith” was if it whacked them between the eyes.
Basically, by appointing Morgan, a man not noted for his ability to listen to others, central government has declared war on local government. Not only that but also guaranteeing the government’s demise in the next general election. I can’t wait to read Wayne Brown’s response. Local government finally has somebody who will respond appropriately to the government’s bullying style.
Here’s the article about Morgan’s appointment.
Di Trower says
Thanks for all your work in this area, Garry and for keeping us up to date with informed opinions and information. It is so depressing, isn’t it? I have to wonder if Jacinda Ardern really knows an awful lot about the proposed Three Waters program. I’ve long been a Labour supporter but am not afraid to call them out when they’ve got it wrong, and they’ve got it completely wrong this time. Bad memories of the electricity reforms doesn’t help to persuade me that this model is in any way a good scheme. I like the three mayor’s proposals (even though I’m not a fan of Mayor Brown’s methods and manner thus far) but think it will be very workable and a lot less disruptive and divisive. There are excellent examples of territorial authorities and Iwi working together very successfully and I see no reason at all why it can’t work with the alternative model.
I’m still hopeful to see the current model switched for a democratic one, but as time goes on, less so. Hope I’m wrong.
Enjoy your break!