‘New Zealand has been duped’was the view expressed by National’s Maureen Pugh in the House this week, but despite opposition from National and Act, the Water Services Entities Bill passed its second reading. THOMAS CRANMER writes:
This week, the Water Services Entities Bill passed its second reading in the House with Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori voting in favour, and National and Act voting against.
It was, in truth, an entirely predictable debate with both sides of the House talking past each other. But the opposition speakers did highlight some of the most egregious problems with the Bill. Here is a selection of some of their substantive objections (with my own emphasis added in bold).
National’s Simon Watts highlighted the potential transfer of parks and reserves to the WSEs and the broadening of the scope for the Te Mana o te Wai statements:
Explicitly, two changes in the bill. One is about including green infrastructure like parks and reserves. They are lining up local parks and reserves to be transferred to these mega entities, and the Minister pretty much categorically agreed with that yesterday in the House. They are also expanding the Te Mana o te Wai statement to include coastal and geothermal waters—under the radar, three waters has become five waters. This Government is intent on a control agenda which will be detrimental to this country’s future.
Act’s Simon Court pointed out that the government’s bottom line of balance sheet separation is no more than a fiction:
Then I want to come to balance sheet separation, which the Minister has said is a critical aspect of reform. That means the debt raised by these water entities proposed in the bill won’t be held against council balance sheets or Government balance sheets.
However, the Government’s own official advice provided by Standard & Poor’s blew this concept out of the water. The committee heard that these proposed water entities won’t be able to achieve balance sheet separation, but if they are, they’ll be highly leveraged and they’ll have a very high risk rating—just like Kāinga Ora, who recently had to come cap in hand to the Government begging for $2.75 billion in assistance.
These water entities will not be separate. They can’t be. But if they are, they won’t have the A+ rating that the Local Government Funding Agency currently does. They’ll have a B rating, according to Standard & Poor’s, which is on the way to junk bond rating, Minister. This destroys the balance sheet separation argument. Minister, either you’ve not read the reports or you haven’t understood them.
Court also raised the “unlimited capacity” of Te Mana o te Wai statements:
Then there is the te mana o te wai statements, which only iwi and hapū can provide, and at any time, and must be given effect to. Now, this could cover any aspect of water, water use, allocation, discharges, overland flows, storage, recreation on lakes and rivers. The list of things that a te mana o te wai statement exclusively provided by iwi and hapū that the water entities will have to give effect to—it’s an unlimited capacity to direct how water is used.
… the provisions around stormwater, around bringing in parks and reserves, around geothermal waters, and around coastal waters make this not just a three waters bill, but maybe even a five waters bill, Minister—a five waters bill. So how on earth is it going to be possible for people who want to develop geothermal resources, who want to deliver renewable energy for communities, help us transition—who are they going to have to negotiate with, Minister, to get their developments up and running? Or will this just be an opportunity through these Te Mana o te Wai statements for continuing rent seeking from some of the most privileged and wealthy organisations in New Zealand?
National’s Maureen Pugh rounded out the criticism of some of the most egregious provisions in the Bill:
But I want to turn the rest of my contribution to why I think this is dishonest, because this legislation contains two things that I want to raise tonight. One is about the exclusive ability for the iwi representatives to propose statements. Now, these statements are binding on those entities and we’ve heard about some of the caution that we have around that, because it is extending out into fresh water, it’s extending out into the ocean.
I just want to read a part out of the Cabinet paper that Nanaia Mahuta had in June 2021. This wasn’t made available to the public, by the way. ‘I see the [Te Mana o te Wai] statements as being holistic, enabling Māori to express a broad wellbeing approach consistent with a Te Ao Māori approach to such measures, including economic, cultural, social, and environmental expectations.’
She goes on to say, ‘Such statements could contain economic aspirations with respect to Māori enterprise and job creation, particularly—but not exclusively—in areas related to mātauranga Māori expertise.’
So, basically, what they are saying is that whatever the 1,200 iwi and hapū consider in their best interests and are deemed to be consistent with the view of mātauranga Māori, they will be locked into those entities and those statements are binding, and those for water services entities have to obey them.
But there’s another little hidden part of this piece of legislation that needs a bit of airtime, and that is that not only are they going to seize the councils’ bought and paid for infrastructure—three-waters infrastructure—but they’re now also going after parks and reserves.
So New Zealand has been duped into thinking that this has been all about clean water, when, in fact, we were between second and ninth in the world for top-quality water in this country, and, again, this is this typical Labour Government saying they’ve got a solution and they’re now looking for a problem. But this is dishonest, and they have not had the gumption to be open with the people of New Zealand.
Thus the Bill marches on. Shortly it will be the law of the land.
- Thomas Cranmer is a pseudonym. This article was first posted on Cranmer’s Substack, public interest citizen journalism about politics, culture and law in New Zealand. You will find it at ‘New Zealand has been duped’ – Cranmer’s Substack
One thought on “THOMAS CRANMER: ‘New Zealand has been duped’”
Lacking any democratic mandate a cabal within the governing party has, with the complicity of Ardern and the media, seized control of all fresh water, and now also all coastal and geothermal waters, as well as all the community-owned infrastructure for managing water in New Zealand, which has been built up over more than a century and which is worth billions of dollars. Reasonable opposing views (some 88,000 submissions) have been ignored and sidelined and there has been no good faith attempt at negotiation. We have witnessed a coup. This is a shameful time in New Zealand’s governance.
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