Splish, splash – and Mahuta is back in the swim with a Bill to spare us from sinking in water-supply costs

Buzz from the Beehive

The government hadn’t done with legislating and regulating our water-supply systems, when we last reported on the flow of announcements from the Beehive.

Nanaia Mahuta (in tandem with Commerce and Communications Minister David Clark) had one more press statement to  issue – 

New legislation to provide affordable water services for New Zealanders

The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill and Water Services Legislation Bill have been introduced to Parliament today, following the passage of the Water Services Entities Act.

Earlier in the day Mahuta had issued this –

 Next steps in securing affordable water services for New Zealanders

The Government has laid foundations for safe and affordable water services with the Water Services Entities Bill passing its third reading in Parliament.

This was followed by Environment Minister David Parker announcing –

Updating freshwater regulations

The Government has updated the Essential Freshwater 2020 regulations to support their effective implementation, and in response to consultation feedback.  

The changes announced by Parker have been made to the:

Parker says this means a consenting pathway is now available for quarrying activities, landfills and clean-fill areas, mineral mining (with some additional controls on coal mining) and some urban development.

But wait – there’s more.

Mahuta and Clark rounded off a busy day for water buffs with their joint statement.

Mahuta’s involvement – of course – means we should be very nervous about what lies in store.

True, we could find no mention of co-governance in the new statement.

But that’s not reassuring.  There was no mention of it in the statement Mahuta issued earlier in the day, either, although co-governance has been embedded in the freshly enacted Water Services Entities Act to establish four publicly owned water service entities and set out their representation, governance and accountability arrangements, some powers for the transition period and arrangements about employment provisions.

The ministers are emphasising a governmental concern with improving our financial wellbeing.  

Once passed (the joint press statement says) the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill and Water Services Legislation Bill will ensure affordable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater can be provided to New Zealanders “now and into the future” (a reassuring suggestion the government is thinking beyond the next election).  

“These Bills are an important step in addressing a fundamental cost of living issue that will affect all New Zealanders for decades to come if left unfixed,” Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

“Independent research shows households are looking at water costs increasing to as much as $9,000 per year and the failure of basic water services if we do not act quickly,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

And:

“The Water Services Legislation Bill introduced today builds on the first Act. It sets out detailed functions and powers of the new entities, what they are required to do, the tools they need for their work and arrangements for the transition to the new system.

“It establishes relationships between entities and consumers to enable greater transparency around pricing and charging, and sets out protection measures for vulnerable consumers including an extension of the current rates rebates scheme to cover water charges.”

Mahuta further emphasised the beneficial implications for our financial wellbeing:

“This is a cost of living issue. Households cannot afford to see their water bills and rates spiral out of control. Evidence shows this will happen without reform. Keeping a lid on rates rises is imperative, as households, businesses, communities and councils around the country face cost of living challenges.

“These Bills set out a detailed framework for water reform developed by decades of discussions and more than two years of concentrated work by Government, local government, mana whenua and industry partners.”

The Bills (Mahuta assured us) will shortly undergo their first reading debates in Parliament and will then be subject to a select committee process where further public submissions will be welcomed.

Welcomed?

Maybe.

Heeded?

Much the same way as submissions to the Water Services Entities Bill were treated, we fear.  

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill will ensure the future water infrastructure system provides greater service quality and consumer rights protection to all New Zealanders.

“The Government has listened closely to the feedback from councils and wider communities,” David Clark said.

We can’t dispute that it has listened closely. 

But has it taken any notice of what it has been told? 

“We have taken on board the desire for greater transparency by the water service entities and better water user representation by expanding the Consumer Advocacy Council’s remit so it can advocate on behalf of water services consumers.

“The Commerce Commission will oversee protections for New Zealanders, through a newly established Water Services Commissioner who will focus on ensuring the transparency of water entities’ operations.

“Consumers should also receive timely responses when they contact a water service entity with a query or complaint, clear communication about planned or unplanned network outages, and be able to resolve any disputes quickly,” David Clark said.

Other press statements and speeches posted since Point of Order’s previous Buzz report tell us – 

Government boost for Queenstown’s film and technology industry

The Government continues to invest in projects across the country to ensure our regions have the infrastructure they need to thrive and grow, and to boost local economies.

Investing is one word for it.  You could call it “corporate welfare” or a pitch for Queenstown votes. 

Building a better housing and urban future for Rotorua, together

Ensuring Rotorua has better and more sustainable housing outcomes for its people is behind the Rotorua Housing Accord, signed by central and local government, Rotorua Lakes Council, Te Arawa and Ngāti Whakaue as mana whenua which gifted land to establish the Rotorua township.

And here’s a pitch for  the Rotorua vote.

New Zealand observers to Fiji elections

New Zealand observers are to join a Multinational Observer Group that will report on Fiji’s forthcoming General Election.

Improved visa conditions for frequent official visitors from Pacific Island Forum Countries

Officials, diplomats, and frequent business visitors travelling to New Zealand from Pacific Island Forum Countries and Kiribati will receive improved visa conditions when travelling to New Zealand, Immigration Minister Michael Wood has announced today.

 

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