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Three Waters Reform Program

Three Waters Reform Program

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 it is actually about is giving control of our three waters assets to Maori as was suggested in the He Puapua report.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) signed a deal with the Government in July, to promote The Three Waters Reform Project. This deal was supported by the government offering funding to allow LGNZ convince their members to agree to the scheme.

This deal with the government which was signed off by the executives of LGNZ without any consultation with the members of LGNZ, in effect, means that LGNZ is being paid by the government to help get a successful outcome in relation to the Three Waters Reform Program.

It is not known how much the government has paid, or committed to pay, for the support of LGNZ but what is known is that as a result of this deal LGNZ is now working for the benefit of the government and not its own members, in relation to the Three Waters Reform Program.

Under this deal LGNZ will be required to support the government position; that there is a “sufficient evidence based national case for change”; “the current approach to three waters service delivery is not capable of delivering the outcomes required in an affordable and sustainable way into the future”; and “the proposed model design and approach to reform is sound, appropriate and beneficial.”

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.

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.

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

 This, Three Waters Reform Program, is nothing more than an ideological experiment that will allow Maori to have control over water delivery in the whole of New Zealand.

The Three Waters Reform Program proposes that each of the entities set up to manage operations will be run by an Independent Board comprising of 50% Mana Whenua membership and 50% other with a requirement that a 75% support will be required to make changes within management of these entities. 

Many current Mayors and Councilors around New Zealand have yet to be convinced that the Three Waters Reform Program will actually be of benefit to their ratepayers even though the government has tried to buy their support with an offer of $2.5Billion dollars and a nationwide advertising campaign costing $3.5Million dollars.

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.

In the run-up to the election in 2020 no party campaigned that they wanted the country to move from being a democratic freedom based society and move to centralised control of all aspects of our lives.

They certainly did not in any form campaign any policies remotely resembling the Three Waters Reform Program, yet we now see the current government urgently pursuing this.

Why the urgency?

What are we not being told?

Maybe we should not be accepting government as the sole source of truth after all, even though Prime Minister Ardern claims it to be so.

Andy Loader