We had the largest attendance we have had to a Zoom meeting, and also many of Facebook, when Dame Anne Salmond spoke last Tuesday. The presentation demonstrated why she has been awarded the highest honour a New Zealand citizen can we awarded. Her in depth, scholarly, understanding of Te Treaty o Waitangi Māori version is impressive. As was her practical experience of working with Runanga to enhance the river which flows past her property.
This was a talk by somebody combining scholarship and experience. If I had ever studied at University, I would have done anthropology. Dame Anne, as well as being an academic, worked on a working party in Auckland as the attempts to privatise water were rearing their ugly head in the 1980’s. The proposed 3 Waters reforms will inevitably lead to these same privatisation moves again. It won’t come from this government, but it certainly will come from a right-wing government sometime in the future. With the changes being proposed there will be nothing to prevent this happening.
When the Local Government Act was passed in 2002 there were many of us who had smelt the bad breath of the privateers and through our lobbying, we ensured that water was protected for ever. This government will have to remove the protective sections of the 2002 Local Government Act we worked so hard to have in legislation to implement their proposed legislation. Once this protection is removed a future right-wing government will have a simple 4 company structure to privatise and the local accountability for our water will be gone.
There were many quotes which I wrote down as Dame Anne spoke. Here are a few:
When speaking about the neo-liberal corporate structure which is proposed for the 4-company structure she asked:
“How’s a corporate that caused the problem in the first place going to give a solution?
In other words, think about the corporate structure which was imposed on us all with energy which was to supply us with lower cost power. Do we have any level of accountability from this structure? Has our energy got cheaper? Are we investing to meet future energy demands?
Another question posed for a future right-wing government:
“How will the logic of privatisation be resisted in the future?
A challenge for a government beset by plunging poll ratings:
“If you shove through this level of modification without taking people with you, then what?”
The separation of Te Mana O Te Wai (the state of our rivers) and the water infrastructure is what she cleverly drew together. They are inter-dependent. Iwi should be focusing at a local level on the impact on hapu of local water. NOT on supporting big corporate structures which will inevitably ignore small local solutions.
“Large monopolies can get very remote from people”.
“Tairawhiti (where Dame Anne lives) will have just one share and there are a number of Rununga” (and my comment would be how will they reconcile their needs to the needs of iwi in Golden Bay and all those Runanga in between down the East Coast and across the top of the South Island).
- “These proposals have the Balance Sheet at their heart”.
- “This is another example of a “top down” command and control model”.
- “This is another asset grab. By financializing their flows waterways will not win”
- “This is not about mana it’s about money”.
- “Why aren’t they thinking about bringing it down in scale. Why mega when there are already communities of interest?”
- “It seems odd that instead of regional the proposed structure has gone up a level”.
- “The government should take a river centred approach and think about the water and it’s living system. This framework will not allow Te Mana O Te Wai”.
- “It is important to look at a natural catchment and the system should flow from that”.
This was a very important talk by a leading New Zealand thinker. I recommend you watch this video. I found it inspiring