Remember this?

Whilst our local mayors continue their ‘education’ campaign maligning the Government’s ‘3 Waters’ reforms as ‘undemocratic’ and ill-considered, it might be wise to reflect on the assessment just published by some of NZ’s leading public health experts, all associated with the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago.

The kind of folks you trust when they discuss health matters (including when they criticise Government plans). And make no mistake, ‘3 Waters’ is a health reform. They have no political or jurisdictional turf to protect. They merely want to see lives protected in the best way possible, with safe water services equitably delivered to all New Zealanders. And so they support the Government’s plan. 

Their well-referenced assessment was posted on the respected blog, Public Health Expert. You can read it here in its entirety (5 minutes or so). But here are some excerpts to give you a flavour.

“Unfortunately, the public discourse around Three Waters has been overly focused on issues of co-governance and dominated by local politicking. The two key issues driving reform have been drowned out in public discourse; 1) the current approach to water services is far from adequate to protect public health; and 2) individual councils cannot typically support the necessary upgrades in their water services without major rates hikes.”

“The amalgamation proposed in the WSE Bill provides an opportunity to resolve previous systemic flaws outlined in the Government Inquiry into Havelock North and future proof our Three Waters. Most importantly, the proposed system improvements in the efficacy and efficiency of our Three Waters will protect public health and uphold the right to clean, safe water.”

“Water New Zealand (the industry body for the three waters sector) has estimated the waters sector will need an additional 6000-9000 skilled workers over the next 30 years if safe drinking water standards are to be met. It seems unrealistic to expect each of the 67 councils to have sufficient expertise in all areas required to ensure optimal public health outcomes from water service provision – e.g., to have a groundwater hydrologist; engineers; spatial data specialist; and public health expertise.”

Has anyone heard any of our local mayors assert with a straight face that our local councils actually have the technical nous to deliver safe water? Proof of the opposite is in the mess they and their predecessors have created, which persists to this day and looks to continue indefinitely.

Instead, they’ve been struggling mightily to divert attention from the realities of incompetence, incapacity and unaffordability to specious warnings about loss of ‘democracy’.

Well sorry … you, me and our neighbours on the block are not going to democratically design water infrastructure to protect lives at our next sausage sizzle, or get it done as cost-effectively as possible. Nor are our mayors. 

But experts in public health, financing and qualified engineers, responsible for all 5 million+ of us, just might.


Join the Conversation


  1. Democracy is such an old fashioned concept. Everyone having equal political rights
    Let’s “tweak it” so it evolves into something new.
    How about “Separate but equal development of races”
    Only problem is that’s not new. It was the South African Governments definition of Apartheid

  2. Thank you Tom you are exactly right. The expertise does not exist at the local level and there is absolutely no will to seriously address local issues and spend the money to do that. Why Wairoa and Central Hawkes Bay oppose the proposal is beyond me when the smallest municipalities will benefit most.

  3. So where will ALL to the billions of dollars be comming from, if Council’s, the likes of ALL HB Councils flatly refuse to sign up to the government’s proposed 3 Waters??
    Well, from past experience, all Four
    councils will simply plod on doing a littles bit here and there, whatever they fancy, completely disjointed from each other! Like can you believe it, the present building of a silly concrete footpath in Sturm Gully?? Who needed that? SFA!
    And in the meantime All iratepayers hard earned money will carry on getting spent up large on vanity projects, likes of swimming pools, New Civic Block, Fish Tank, etc etc but definitely Not on the likes of the boring essential services! The likes of safe, without adding chemicals, drinking water, updated sewage treatment, disposal and adequate stormwater systems.
    The present proposal Three Waters, along with government backing, tax payer, ratepayers funding, appears the only “sensible” way to go!
    After all, there is No way on earth NCC ratepayers could afford to be saddled, to such massive increases to their rates bill, to cover the costs of what is so desperately needed to be done!! Surely enough of the cheap politicking and endless talkathons…….
    Get on with it.

  4. Well said Tom and the unknown impact of the co-governance issues are a real concern. Having been involved in the Havelock North drinking water contamination event which now goes down in history as probably the worst public health drinking water event recorded in the world. I watched closely the agencies involved in protecting our precious water supply; the dirt, the filth, and back stabbing. Local Authorities simply can’t be trusted to manage Three Waters without even considering the cost involved.

  5. The trouble is it’s all too easy to suggest that any unease about Three Waters means that people are against improving the water infrastructure. I’ve every confidence that the Three Waters program will be as successful as Kiwi build and lightrail.
    The political implications are much more concerning.

  6. Above suggested Havelock North worst in world. Check Zermatt Switzerland and Walkerton Ontario Canada. Both resulted in significant governance change akin to 3 Waters

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