Public health, water infrastructure and te ao Māori (as well as governance) went into the mix when Mahuta named water authority

Our Beehive Bulletin … 

With the Maori wards issue taken care of through legislation rushed egregiously into law under urgency, control of the country’s water supply is high on the agenda for action by champions of the treaty “partnership”.

Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu have joined forces in proceedings against the Crown, seeking “rangatiratanga” over freshwater in their respective areas.

Rangatiratanga – according to the Stuff report –  has a wide number of meanings, covering everything from leadership to authority to autonomy.  Citizens should be braced for whatever interpretation is put on this when the courts make a ruling.

More immediately, the government has announced its appointments to the inaugural board of its water services regulator, established as part of major water reforms.

Appointees with Ngati Kahungunu and Ngai Tahu ancestry are among the seven people named.

Among other bulletins from the Beehive:

  • $693,900 Jobs for Nature funding will enable eight nature-based jobs to be created, providing work and helping protect the unique values of Northland’s Te Ārai Nature Reserve for future generations.  Te Ārai is culturally important to Te Aupōuri as the last resting place of the spirits before they depart to Te Rerenga Wairua, Conservation Minister Kiri Allen said. The installation of approximately 14-kilometre of boundary fencing, pest management, and weed control will help to protect this important site from degradation,” Allen said.
  • The Government is backing a new project to use drone technology to transform its understanding and protection of the Māui dolphin, this country’s most endangered dolphin.
  • People and businesses connected to the recent Auckland COVID-19 cases are being advised to check the Work and Income website, if they’ve been impacted by the need to self-isolate – a suite of Government income support packages is available.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed her condolences at the passing of long-serving former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.  He was Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea from 1975-1980, 1982-1985 and 2002-2011 and served as a politician from 1968-2017.

The announcement of appointments to the new water regulatory authority was made by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, fresh from steering into law the democracy-debilitating Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill.

All stages of that law were rushed to give local bodies time to prepare ahead of the next election, which meant the public were given scant chance to submit on the profound constitutional implications and the select committee was given scant chance to consider them.

The law denies citizens a chance to overturn council decisions to introduce Māori wards, in effect extending the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards to 21 May 2021 and, in effect, gives them more time to decide if they want to introduce them.

Mahuta has given plenty of thought to the constituency of the new water authority.

“The Board has a highly experienced mix of those representing public health, water infrastructure, and te ao Māori, in addition to considerable governance experience.

“There is continuity in the kaupapa with previous involvement not just in the Havelock North Inquiry but also with Te Mana o Te Wai/Kāhui Wai Māori and the Three Waters Reform Committee and Taumata Arowai Steering Board,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

Taumata Arowai is the name of the new authority (the government avoids names that immediately inform the public what an agency does, such as Water Regulatory Authority).  It will become a legal entity on 1 March and will become fully operational as a regulator with the enactment of the Water Services Bill, currently before Parliament’s Health Select Committee.

Mahuta said:

“The establishment of Taumata Arowai is one of three pillars of the Government’s Three Waters Reform programme, alongside the regulatory reforms outlined in the Water Services Bill, and the reforms to water delivery services.”

The reforms are intended to address issues and opportunities that were highlighted by the Government Inquiry into the Havelock North Drinking Water, and in the Government’s Three Waters Review.”

At its introduction Minister Mahuta outlined how the Bill strikes a balance between incentivising drinking water suppliers to take responsibility for their supplies and giving Taumata Arowai a modern regulatory framework to promote good practice, compliance, and enforcement.

Until the enactment of the Bill, anticipated to pass by mid-2021, the Ministry of Health remains responsible for drinking water regulation.

But if progress in enacting the legislation is too slow – well, we know Mahuta is a dab hand at speeding things up.

The appointees are:

 Dame Karen Poutasi (chair).  She is Commissioner of Waikato DHB, and Chair of the Covid-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Governance Group. Dame Karen has previously served as the Director General of Health and the Chief Executive of NZQA. She was a member of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry panel.

Troy Brockbank (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) is a civil engineer, who is currently a Senior Environmental Consultant with WSP. He is also a member of the Water New Zealand Board, and Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, the Māori Advisory Group to the Environmental Protection Authority. He has a focus on promoting the integration of mātauranga Māori alongside western knowledge and engineering practices.

Riki Ellison (Ngāi Tahu, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Toa Rangatira) is a consultant specialising in resource management and engagement with Māori, working closely with central government agencies, local government, and iwi. He is a member of Kāhui Wai Māori, the authors of Te Mana o Te Wai, to which Taumata Arowai must give effect.

Brian Hanna is currently the Independent Chair of the Three Waters Reform Steering Group, a member of the Taumata Arowai Steering Board, and a farmer and business director. He is a former Mayor (nine years) and Councillor (six years) of the Waitomo District. He has also served as a Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Board Member and Chair of the LGNZ-DIA Water Regulation Advisory Group.

Dr Virginia Hope is currently a member of Te Kāhui Tātari Ture – Criminal Cases Review Commission, the Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group, and a Medical Director for ESR. She has previously served as the Chair of Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs, and as an elected member of Auckland DHB. For over a decade she served as Medical Officer for Auckland Regional Public Health Services.

Loretta Lovell (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Kahungunu and Whakatōhea) is a lawyer and Environmental Commissioner, who is currently a member of the Development Contribution Commissioner Panel and the Environmental Legal Fund Advisory Panel. She has previously been a legal advisor for several Treaty settlements and iwi organisations.

Anthony Wilson is a highly experienced civil engineer who has previously managed water infrastructure at New Plymouth District Council and Wellington City Council. He is currently a member of the Board of Inquiry: Watercare Waikato River Take Proposal, and Lead – Three Waters Stimulus for Crown Infrastructure Partners Ltd. He served as a panel member of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry.

Mention of water infrastructure management in Wellington on Wilson’s CV is worth noting.  The city’s pipes aren’t in great shape nowadays and a hefty rates increase is on the cards.

Our quick search uncovered a newspaper report in 2017, when Wellington City Council was fixing quake-damaged pipes that had leaked roughly a million litres of water in the CBD every day for four months.

Wellington City Council city engineer Anthony Wilson was quoted as saying it would probably take four months before the CDB’s consumption returned to normal, after it rose by 8 per cent following the November quake in Kaikoura.

Mayor Justin Lester said that, even before the quake, Wellington was losing 13 per cent of its water to leaks.

However, that compared favourably with international comparisons, and Wellington’s leakages had been reduced from 23 per cent over the past six years.

“We are actually performing incredibly well, considering.”

Wilson said the urban environment and geology of Wellington hampered leak detection, with pipes in reclaimed land generally surrounded by porous material that would absorb water, rather than erode or create ruptures.

He said the council upgraded about 2 per cent of its water infrastructure annually, and new technologies would help to reduce leaks.

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One thought on “Public health, water infrastructure and te ao Māori (as well as governance) went into the mix when Mahuta named water authority

  1. Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    This water authority appears to be very carefully chosen to proceed down one predetermined path. Plus I see potential conflicts of interest already. More inherent racism


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