Despite a torrent of wailing and gnashing of teeth from parts of NZ local government, including the four mayors of Hawke’s Bay, the much-awaited ‘3 Waters’ reform legislation was introduced to Parliament on Thursday by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
The Government’s announcement emphasised: “The new water services entities will ensure all New Zealanders get the high-quality water services they deserve, no matter whether they live in our biggest cities or heartland provincial communities.
“It will also ensure public ownership is a bottom line for this Government, and the Bill contains strong protections against privatisation that will ensure this essential infrastructure is safeguarded for future generations.
“The Bill also incorporates the recommendations of the Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability. It secures community ownership of the water entities, protects against privatisation, and ensures a stronger community voice in the new entities.
“It ensures the collective ownership of the entities by local government on behalf of their communities through a shareholding allocated on the basis of population, as recommended by the Working Group.”
The bill has been welcomed by both Local Government NZ and Water NZ (the industry body for the three waters sector) and will be subject to a full select committee process where further public submissions will be considered.
No doubt our region’s mayors will commission yet another flurry of media releases and a submission denouncing the plan.
However unless you read BayBuzz, you would not likely know that much cooler heads in NZ local government officialdom have worked with the Government on these reforms and support them.
Unlike our local HB councils, who insist – contrary to all historic evidence of their past neglect and mismanagement – can do better. Two of our councils cannot even remotely afford to try do better.
Here’s a different local official view on the matter BayBuzz reported awhile back …
“Far more credible than our mayors is Brian Hanna, who served nine years as mayor of Waitomo District. He has been independent chair of the Central/Local Government Steering Group charged with advising Government on the proposed reforms. He is also a board member of the new national drinking water regulator, Taumata Arowai.
“Here’s what Hanna recently wrote in Farmers Weekly (4 April 2022):
“What has concerned me has been some of the misinformation that has been fed to communities by a small number of mayors and councillors, when the research shows their communities will benefit from the reforms.
“I do question their motives and whose interests they are representing.”
And he notes: “The biggest losers if reform does not proceed are likely to be smaller rural communities in NZ who will face huge, eye watering costs to upgrade infrastructure networks over the foreseeable future.”
It’s hard to fathom why some local ratepayers would prefer to risk drinking unhealthy water, have it flood their homes, or empty it via decrepit water systems into our waterways, and pay more for the privilege … so long as it’s our own councils whose pumps and pipes and treatment plants are failing. Kind of like having cousin Hamish the physio do your brain surgery … just to keep it in the family.