Mahuta and Robertson are flushed with enthusiasm as they pump revised Three Waters plans back into the political pipes

The Labour Government is again using a Friday while the Prime Minister is on leave to dump information, ACT Leader David Seymour claimed in a press statement today.   

He referenced an announcement on Friday last week setting out the  next steps on He Puapua, the government’s programme for extending the meaning of “Treaty partnership” and discriminating in favour of “indigenous” people as “special”.

Today, the government has released its decision on Three Waters.

Just one thing.  Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson certainly have announced the Government’s Three Waters plans.

But when Point of Order checked The Beehive website at 3.30pm – well, it still wasn’t there.

In his statement, David Seymour noted that Three Waters and He Puapua involve major constitutional reform.

“They are issues that deserve sunlight and proper debate,” he said.

“It’s frankly pathetic from Labour to try to quietly release these on Friday while Jacinda is unavailable for interviews.”

He might further have noted that all Labour MPs – and the Green Party and Maori Party MPs who support their programme to promote democracy-debilitating “co-governance”  arrangements – recently voted in favour of the odious Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill.

Concocted by the Rotorua Lakes Council, this would have given 21,700 Māori roll voters three seats on the council, the same political weight as the 55,600 General roll voters.

It was brought to Parliament by Rotorua-based Labour MP Tamati Coffey (who has yet to respond to questions from Point of Order about its fate).  He, of course, brays about the need to “tweak” New Zealand’s democratic systems.

But Labour’s Attorney-General, David Parker, determined Coffey’s tweak could breach the Bill of Rights Act:

 “The Bill appears to limit the right to be free from discrimination affirmed in s 19 of the Bill of Rights Act and cannot be justified.”

And it discriminated against non-Māori, Parker said (this is something as obvious as an elephant dancing an Irish jig during Question Time in the Parliamentary debating chamber, yet the MPs who voted in favour failed to see anything unusual or troubling at the first reading).

The same MPs, alas, will now get to vote before long on the Three Waters legislation, which similarly has been concocted to promote the Government’s co-governance agenda.

Most mayors disagree with it and public opposition is reflected in billboards set up around the country.

Opponents are unlikely to be mollified by the announcement from Nanaia Mahuta and Grant Robertson today.  They said the government had confirmed local council ownership and “strengthened local voice” by accepting the vast majority of the Three Waters Working Group recommendations on representation, governance and accountability.

“Fundamentally these reforms are about delivering clean and safe drinking water at an affordable price for New Zealanders.,” Grant Robertson said.

Robertson recognised that at the heart of councils’ concerns have been the issues of ownership and voice.

By accepting the majority of the recommendations made by the independent Working Group on Representation, including a shareholding plan, he maintained

“… we have listened to these concerns and modified our proposals accordingly.

“With the key issues now addressed we cannot afford to wait any longer. The costs to communities and ratepayers are just too big to ignore and we need to get on with fixing it.”

In line with the Working Group’s recommendations the Government will:

  • provide for a public shareholding structure that makes community ownership clear, with shares allocated to councils reflective of the size of their communities (one share per 50,000 people);
  • further strengthen and clarify the role of the Regional Representative Group; with joint oversight from local councils and mana whenua to ensure community voice and provide tighter accountability from each water services entity board;
  • maintain that board members are to be appointed based on skills and competency;
  • strengthen connections to smaller communities including through local sub-committees feeding into the Regional Representative Group, to ensure all communities’ voices are considered as part of investment prioritisation; and
  • recognise and embrace Te Mana o te Wai – the health and wellbeing of our waterways and waterbodies – as a korowai, or principle, that applies across the water services framework.

Nanaia Mahuta provided the rationale for sticking to a co-governance model (presumably 50:50)  –

“The governance arrangement in the Regional Representative Group is not something that is new. Many councils already have co-governance arrangements in place, and acknowledge the importance and benefit of such arrangements,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

But because an arrangement works in one situation does not mean it should be applied to other situations.

Determining when co-governance is appropriate and when it is palpably inappropriate is what the constitutional debate should be all about (although, as the Rotorua bill has demonstrated, a vast number of MPs have become ideologically blinded to the palpably inappropriate).

Much more speciously, Mahuta said:

“Without the changes we are making all the evidence points to a legacy of broken pipes, outdated sewage plants, and potential repeats of the tragic Havelock North gastroenteritis outbreak that killed four people and made thousands sick. This should not be the case in a first-world country.” 

Political party responses were –

Three Waters Will Be Gone Under ACT

“Any Government ACT is a part of will reverse Labour’s wildly unpopular Three Water reforms,” says ACT’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Court. “They’ve delayed it multiple times, wasted millions on taxpayer-funded propaganda ad campaigns, … More >>

Three Waters Tweaks Won’t Fix Broken Agenda

Labour needs to accept that their Three Waters agenda is well past saving and the tweaks they’ve made today do nothing to address the key concerns communities have about the reforms, National’s Local Government Spokesperson Simon Watts says. “Even … More >>

 Other responses have been –

Worrying Implication For Property Rights As Government Forces Through Three Waters Reform

Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori says Government plans to force through water reforms virtually unchanged is a worrying attack on property rights and community voice. The changes embed an unusual public shareholding model, … More >>

Ngāi Tahu Welcomes Commitment To Three Waters Infrastructure Reform

Friday, 29 April 2022, 12:44 pm | Ngai Tahu

Ngāi Tahu welcomes the government’s continued commitment to three waters infrastructure reform, Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai said today. Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced today the government was accepting … More >>

Porirua City Council Welcomes 3 Water Reforms

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker has welcomed the decision today that ownership of 3 Waters in New Zealand will remain in the hands of councils. A working group established last year made recommendations to the Government on the future of drinking water, … More >>

Revised Three Waters Plan Is Worse Than Ever – Dishonestly Framed As ‘ownership’ By Councils

Responding to the Government’s revised Three Waters plan announced today, New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams says: “The Government is desperately holding up an imagined threat of privatisation to justify its asset grab. Ironically, … More >>

Three Waters Announcement The Sow’s Ear Of A Separatist Agenda

“Labour’s Three Waters announcement today is nothing but a ‘faux backdown’ which has only occurred due to massive public backlash and the calculated loss of political capital they would endure,” says Rt Hon Winston Peters Leader of New … More >>

More Changes Needed To Improve Three Waters Reform Proposal, Goff Says

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has welcomed changes to the government’s proposed three waters reform but says the model still doesn’t stack up for Aucklanders. This morning the government announced that it will incorporate almost all the 47 recommendations … More >>

LGNZ Welcomes Momentum On Water Reform

LGNZ President Stuart Crosby says the Government’s decisions on the Three Waters Governance Working Group recommendations provide much-needed momentum, as well as certainty for ratepayers. “Councils face big future bills for water services given … More >>

One thought on “Mahuta and Robertson are flushed with enthusiasm as they pump revised Three Waters plans back into the political pipes

  1. So what they want is more committees. All this does is dilute responsibility. Who is actually going to do the work, building and running the infrastructure? Who is responsible as line manager of that? How will it be funded, locally or across the region?
    As there proposals do not actually address these issues, it becomes clear that they will not fix any of the documented problems.

    Liked by 2 people

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