For months our region’s four mayors have tried to drum up ratepayer opposition to the Government’s ‘3 Waters’ plan that would consolidate delivery of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services on a nationwide basis.

In the Government’s plan, the objectives are to guarantee 1st World water services to all New Zealanders on an equitable, affordable, reliable basis, something our local governments – certainly those in Hawke’s Bay – have failed to do.

With the result that their official long terms plans call collectively for $800,000,000 in water service improvements over the next ten years, with private consultant reports placing the needed spend much higher … over $900m for Napier alone.

The Government plan is supported by Local Government NZ and Water NZ.

Three of our councils, Napier, CHB and Wairoa (but not Hastings) have joined a lobbying coalition, Communities 4 Local Democracy, to oppose the reforms.

Our mayors have insisted they have a better regional consolidation plan, and while reiterating their commitment to continue advocating for it, have set it aside for the moment, recognising that the Government is steadfast about enacting more substantial reorganisation. The Bill to do so was formally introduced last week.

So instead, on Friday in a joint media conference, the four mayors announced a change in tack. They will launch a $139,000 ratepayer-funded ‘public information’ campaign whose ostensible purpose is to encourage ratepayers to make submissions to the Select Committee that will consider refinements to the legislation.

[Hmmm … why not ‘information’ campaigns on weighty matters like climate change and health services reform, which are also on the table? But I digress.]

Out of one side of their mouths, the mayors plainly say they do not support the Government plan (Mayor Little clearly hopes a National government will repeal it); but out of the other side, they disingenuously claim to be offering an unbiased public education campaign on the matter to us, the confused masses. Let’s be honest … if the mayors were happy with the plan, there would be no ‘need’ to ‘educate’ the public.

We’re just trying to help our poor confused ratepayers, say the mayors

Being ‘informed’ by our four mayors on the pros and cons of the Government plan is like asking the Mongrel Mob to lead a campaign on gun safety. This is plainly an effort to stoke the fires of resistance … the Huns are coming to steal our land, women and children.

None of our four mayors has the credibility to lead a genuine public education campaign on effective water service delivery. Theirs is a history of pumping sewage and stormwater into our waterways to this day, underestimating the problem, and delivering drinking water that is black, if not deadly. [See BayBuzzFailed Leadership]

As we have over the years, BayBuzz could detail the ‘3 Waters’ failures of each of these councils, but here we’ll focus on Wairoa and its poster boy of opposition to the Government plan, Mayor Craig Little.

Mayor Little has opposed the plan from Day 1, but lately has earned national media and Hawke’s Bay Today poster boy status by terming various aspects of the Government proposals a “load of sewage” and “bulls***”.

Granted, sewage is something Mayor Little knows heaps about. For the entire twelve years he has served on the Wairoa Council, including three terms as mayor, Wairoa has steadily pumped tonnes of sewage into the Wairoa River … originally peaking at 2,400mper day (or 2.4m tonnes), but now roughly doubled. When stormwater capacity was exceeded, raw sewage would be discharged (and this still happens).

When finally confronted on this by the HB Regional Council, the Council’s only defence (since the facts were irrefutable) was in effect, ‘this is the best we could afford’. Indeed, their consent renewal asked for continuing and even higher discharges. As the Hearings Panel observed: “The basic practical problems sitting behind these discharges is the fact that Wairoa’s sewer network is leaky and prone to groundwater infiltration and stormwater ingress (I&I), which elevates base flows and peak wet weather flow volumes.” Ditto for the systems of our other councils!

None of our local councils has a water record to be proud of, but surely the Wairoa situation, with Mayor Little in charge, has been the worst of all. Even with tighter consent conditions imposed late last year by HBRC, this sorry shambles will not improve for years … 30 years according to current plans. Fixing it will cost his ratepayers an extra $8,690 per year by 2051, the most in Hawke’s Bay. Little is clueless as to where the money will actually come from.

Nevertheless, given his in depth experience with sewage, knowledge of infrastructure financing, and his way with words, it would be fitting if his colleagues were to make him Chief Spokesperson for the new water services ‘public education’ campaign!

From its outset, expect Mayor Little’s campaign to be all about confiscated assets (more like liabilities), ultimate privatisation (without explaining why the National Party will not support a requirement for 75% vote of Parliament to privatise, as proposed by Labour), usurping of local democracy (when has calling Mayor Wise ever fixed your water?), and awarding control over water to Māori. To the mayors, it’s all about losing control.

And how little will the campaign objectively expound upon the asserted benefits of the Government proposal – ensuring the same service level and water quality for all New Zealanders, (whether they live in Wairoa or Bluff Hill), reduced ratepayer costs, investing according to actual and future infrastructure need (instead of vanity projects), access to reliable professional expertise (ask CHB about that one), and improving council balance sheets should they wish to finance other community amenities? 

And even less will there be evidence presented that our local councils can or will do better if only given a second chance.

Yes, this will be a public education campaign to behold. Here’s the campaign website. Get out your BS gauge. And be especially skeptical of anything Mayor Little has to say on the subject.

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14 Comments

  1. I strongly oppose wasting ratepayers’ money on this. Three Waters seems to me to be a very good thing.

  2. Ratepayers in CHB paid many millions for an ‘innovative’ solution to it’s failing poo ponds- floating wetlands. We then paid again to have them removed when they failed and are continuing to pay big to fix the failing wastewater systems.
    This is what happens when infrastructure decisions are dictated by the timing of the next election (and the promises made).

  3. I strongly oppose any raising of my rates, (or for that matter any other villainous method of filching my hard earn cash from my pocket), to fund this nebulous ‘education’ rort to cover the ineptitude of people LITTLE like the Mare of Wairoa, so there…

  4. Probably suggest Tom you come to Wairoa and see for yourself what is actually happening, big difference between sewage and treated wastewater, but treated wastewater doesn’t catch the headlines I suppose

    1. I encourage anybody who wants to know what’s going on in Wairoa in terms of wastewater and stormwater treatment, past history and future mitigation requirements, to peruse the Hearings Panel report that granted discharge consents for the Wairoa District Council in October last year. That’s where my facts and language come from. It recounts WDC’s sorry history of discharges and makes clear the problems will stretch well into the future because WDC can’t afford to do better. Māori submitters none too happy about the situation.
      Tom Belford

  5. Bay Buzz is certainly taken sides on this issue. Has it drunk from the $55000000 coolade or not?
    This bill is all about the treaty, not safe water
    Clause 1. All persons exercising powers, functions under this act must (a) support the principles of Te Tiriti (b) Give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai. There is no definition to (b) but
    Under clause 140 Manu Whenua can issue a Mana o Te Wai statement to their water entity and clause 141 states that authority must respond how it intends to give effect to that statement.
    The ratepayers totally lose control which switches to an unelected racially based tribal authority set up by a politician with a very interesting approach to a perception of nepotism
    This act must be repealed!

  6. Yes Wairoa applied to HBRC for their sewage consent. But much of the improvements and conditions were based on the submissions, evidence and the conferencing of tangata whenua i.e. Wairoa Taiwhenua and Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc. 5 years of lead up and hours of long zooms arguing over conditions. It was a rare occasion where HBRC and ourselves were on the same side of an application. Wairoa did themselves no favour.. e.g asking for more years to ‘write a plan’ to do things that their previous consent had instructed them to do, and stated there’s no mahinga kai around the river mouth.

  7. Bay Buzz is an obvious and overt mouthpiece spouting Arderns propaganda; Ardern ; and her “Maori” activist agenda concerning “OUR” (all New Zealanders,) water is once again a treaty based demand (undemocratic) and the subservience to the UN indigenous peoples directive to all those deemed to have perpetrated the crime of colonisation. That historically, and by extension includes all New Zealanders. Arderns using water as a political cudgel to bring water and other srategic resources under Maori Tribal control, this is all been put in the hands of a minister that has appointed close family members as “experts” regarding water supply(potable) and waste water. This family clique is forming policy around “our” water as consultants and undoubtably being paid via the taxepayer. This is corruption at the highest level of Government. One of these individuals is a Minister. Its not something that we as a country have had to confront before on this scale. As to the Wairoa utilities infrastructure it is fundemently in good shape, both water and sewer, and, personally,I have the credentials to say so. Yes, the outlet from the sewage settling ponds does go into the river, so I reapeat; SETTLING PONDS, remember that, it is a known and effective way of dealing with waste water, its not Raw Untreated Sewage as such. The outlet is at the very mouth of the river at present. Napier and Hastngs outlets are via marine outfalls as is Gisbornes and many others. I am also a Wairoa ratepayer, so I am a stake holder in this infrasructure, and will use every effort to subvert and exspose Ardern and her Tribalists anti democratic nepotistic formulated theft of our water.

    1. If you want the facts Russ, read the Hearings Report referred to in my article. WDC doesn’t have the storage or discharge to land capacity it needs to provide an even 2nd rate wastewater service … and has been told by HBRC it needs to develop more.
      As for your conspiracy theories, I think those need some UV treatment.
      If you read BayBuzz with any regularity, you’d know we spare no politicians when accountability and performance are at issue.

      Tom Belford

  8. I don’t think this debate should be about which political party you support.
    It should be about whether central government can do a better job of organising local infrastructure than the locals who have historically set up and run the towns’ electricity, roading, hospitals and water services, albeit under enabling acts of parliament and government subsidies.
    I trust this model more than the central government one. They certainly got electricity wrong in my opinion and the Education Department’s Network Review (around 2005) was like a nuclear bomb in Wairoa’s school system. Craig Little stood up against that too, before becoming a councillor.
    Yes, there are major improvements to be desired in Wairoa’s sewage treatment infrastructure. The government’s (and Baybuzz’s) pitch seems to imply that we get it done out of government largesse if we support the changes. Of course we won’t, and because it does come down to money, why doesn’t the government just fund local bodies to upgrade? Unlike ‘Hawkes Bay’, the old Amalgamation / Economy of Scale argument doesn’t hold up in Wairoa like it might down there. We’re like an offshore island, but sure, why not buy a nation-wide job-lot of pipes? I’m sure WDC would put its hand up for better value if the government goes that way. Think Pharmac perhaps.
    Wairoa’s not a basket case as Baybuzz implies. We’ve had reliable drinking water since the system was set up years ago. The wastewater treatment plant built in the 70s was a vast improvement on raw discharge. When it does get overloaded due to stormwater ingress, it’s because of heavy rain with the river up and roaring out to sea – at which time the silt it increasingly carries should be more of a pollution issue for HBRC (but that’s another story).
    We will of course pay under the proposed new system. There will be water charges or tax increases. But will every local area be treated equally, will some be subsidising others? Will it be fair? I’d prefer to put my trust in our own council. Government should set some standards, provide oversight and funding, and then step back.

  9. Ex newsreader Peter Williams has recently been giving a 35-minute speech opposing Three Waters and (in my judgement) it is very informative and convincing. It can be easily located on the net.

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