Three Waters Reform Program

Three Waters Reform Program

The Lack of Consultation with Stakeholders

Most people in New Zealand probably don’t understand what the Three Waters Reform Program is or what it is proposed to do.

So let’s be clear about this:

  1. The Three Waters Reform Program is about the Government proposing to build a better system for New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater—our three waters—networks
  2. But what we believe it is actually about, is giving control of our three waters assets to Maori as was suggested in the He Puapua report.

The current government have proposed to seize all three water assets from local and regional councils and put them into a small number of commercial companies to run those operations.

They are proposing to do this without allowing any reasonable time for the councils to consult with the ratepayers who actually have paid for and own those assets.

Some months back, government announced a one off payment with no strings attached, costing $740 million across New Zealand, to stimulate the economy during the Covid recovery period and all the councils had to do was supply government with a full analysis of its’ current three Waters assets and programmes.

The governance structure has been proposed as 50% councils who will put in 100% of the assets and 50% IWI.

The Government have held meetings with Iwi and Councils throughout New Zealand but have yet to hold one public consultation meeting with any ratepayers (who are in fact the owners of these assets).

The Government has been meeting with Councils and offering to spend up to $2.5 billion on paying for council debt in relation to the ownership of the three waters assets but in effect this amounts to little more than a few cents in the dollar on the value of the assets that they are proposing to seize.

The government is being very dis-ingenuous by saying “the assets will remain in the ownership of the councils”, when in actual fact the original councils will have absolutely no say in the management of those assets or receive any beneficial income from them, as would be expected in any normal similar asset ownership situation.

There was a series of meetings held with Mayors around the country with the key message from governments PR team being; “we have proven the case for change”, with the government’s position being that participation was optional.

Given the confusing messages that are coming from Government sources in Wellington we do not believe that the case for change has been proven on any grounds.

In fact many councils are undertaking their own due diligence to assess the impact of the proposed reforms on their ratepayers and finding that the Three Waters Reform Program is based on faulty assumptions and flawed analysis, with the claimed benefits unlikely to materialise.

We are now led to believe that the government have been having meetings with local councils in our region and that the councils have been instructed not to discuss the outcome of those meetings with their ratepayers.

The ratepayers of each district will have their assets taken and end up being billed with large increases from the water regulator which they will have no control over, where at present local body elections bring about some level of accountability.

So in summary the ratepayers around New Zealand are going to have the assets that they have paid for STOLEN from them and given to then new authority then be asked to pay hugely inflated charges for their water supply with no chance of accountability with fifty percent control of the stolen assets being given to Maori.

The level of secrecy that has been effected in this whole proposal from the first suggestions of it in the He Puapua report through to the latest round of meetings with councils leaves me wondering what this government hasn’t told the ratepayers/owners of these assets, and what predetermined outcomes the government had for this whole proposal right from the beginning.

Instead of trying to buy off opposition to their proposal what the government should do is engage with the owners of those assets by way of binding public referendum in every district to allow those owners and ratepayers who have along with their families over generations paid for the three water assets to make the decision to opt in or out.

I believe that the only rational explanation for this Three Waters Reform Program is to use it to hand over control of water to Maori as recommended in the He Puapua report. The Government has no mandate for that course of action – it is completely unacceptable.

The foundation of our democracy is the law applied equally to us all to ensure justice and fairness in a just and fair society as granted to all the subjects of Her Majesty the Queen.

There is a growing opinion that the three waters proposal from Government is an attack on democracy, something that is also occurring in other areas for this government’s reform program.