A summary of what exactly is happening with 3 Waters was produced recently by RNZ. Here it is:
There are 67 local authorities in New Zealand. Seven (7) are supporting the proposed 3 Waters plan of the government. That means sixty (60) don’t or have major concerns. The minister puts me in mind of that quote from a US Vietnam war officer who found himself utterly overwhelmed against the Vietcong. He reported to his superiors- ‘I’ve got them right where I want them, sir – surrounded from the inside.’ If Nanaia Mahuta forces this on the population of New Zealand there will be serious uprising in this country.
I was sent some thoughts from Roger Matthews, former local government staff member, about the 3 Waters reforms:
… whatever happens, there are likely to be some very big fish hooks in these proposals. None of these are insurmountable, however they will still need to be addressed/answered. So, a quick list, just off the top of my head:
1. The only people/organisations with experience of the water industry is local government. Central government has literally never done this.
2. Transferring the assets and staff will hollow out LG reducing its capacity to serve its community in other ways – maybe that’s part of the strategy?
3. Some councils have done a great job and their water assets are in good shape, others not so much. So those councils that were ‘delinquent’ in order to keep their rates down, get rewarded while good councils get punished.
4. In some areas ground conditions are easy and cheap to dig and have good soakage for stormwater. Others like parts of Auckland are on hard rock (basaltic lava flows) or on impermeable clay that can be very expensive to service. So do the easy areas now subsidise the hard ones? Is this fair?
5. The new ‘company’ areas will be huge… if you have a burst pipe in Invercargill, it seems likely that you’ll have to ring a call centre in Christchurch, if you’re lucky, or potentially Manilla, like many other corporatized utilities!
6. Large numbers of skilled and experienced staff will inevitably be lost as they’ll be given the choice of re-locating cities/towns or being made redundant. This was the Auckland experience, where many skilled and knowledgeable staff, took early retirement or left the country, can we afford to lose them.
7. Loosing staff will inevitably mean the loss of local knowledge, and in areas where records are not the best (remember some of these networks are 100+ yo), this is a potentially very serious problem.
8. Providing infrastructure is always a balance between environmental standards, community aspirations and ability to pay. This varies at the local level. The proposal appears designed to steamroller over this and apply ‘one size fits all’ solutions. This may well result in perverse outcomes.
9. In democratic systems it’s normal for people to demand Rolls Royce services at Lada prices (low rates). But at least the present system allows this to be debated publicly and transparently (for better or worse). The new proposal will do it in a private commercial structure, how will this play out and how will it impact accessibility?
10. Iwi/pakeha concerns. Māori have rights and interests in the management of water, but in trying to meet these, the proposals will inevitably antagonise segments of the community that don’t believe that these rights and interests exist. There is a good chance that this could result in a politically motivated slanging match that could hurt us all… another perverse outcome?
11. Each one of these entities will require expensive new executive teams to run.