THOMAS CRANMER: Mahuta ditches the ‘no surprises’ policy

As Cabinet Ministers have been blindsided by developments in the Three Waters legislation, the events of last Wednesday night give a glimpse of the power politics that are at play within government.  THOMAS CRANMER writes: 

As the furore over the government’s attempted entrenchment of the anti-privatisation provision within the Three Waters legislation continues to buffer the government, Ministers could be forgiven for thinking that their ‘no surprises’ policy has been replaced with something rather more dramatic.

Last week, the Prime Minister was blindsided when Barry Soper asked for an explanation about the expansion of elements of the reforms to include geothermal and coastal waters. Ministers Robertson and Woods similarly both confessed to not knowing anything about the change. It gave the impression of a Cabinet that had lost its grip on Three Waters. More broadly, it raised questions as to who is actually in charge. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Mahuta ditches the ‘no surprises’ policy”

THOMAS CRANMER: Labour reintroduces blasphemy laws

The government repealed blasphemous libel laws three years ago but now looks set to re-introduce something remarkably similar. It is an amendment that not even the Royal Commission has recommended.  THOMAS  CRANMER writes-

As the government was labelled “reckless and irresponsible” on Wednesday for attempting to rush through 24 bills, some without public consultation, the chances of bad law being made is extremely high.

Already this week we have seen the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues so badly exposed on the Water Services Entities Bill, that it has required Minister Mahuta to make an amendment in an effort to quell growing public concern about the scope of the Bill.

That amendment, by the way, is merely a drafting sleight of hand that doesn’t change the substance or scope of the Bill but more on that next week.

Given the speed at which the government is moving we can be sure that it is not the only wrinkle that will make its way through the House and onto the statute books. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Labour reintroduces blasphemy laws”

THOMAS CRANMER: Government ducks Bill of Rights assessment on Three Waters bill

While politicians and commentators raise concerns about the race-based nature of the Three (or Five) Waters reforms, the government has produced its Bill of Rights analysis which is superficial and slapdash at best.  THOMAS CRANMER writes –

It may come as a surprise to some that the government has already obtained legal advice from the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Law Office to scrutinize whether the Water Services Entities Bill is consistent with the Bill of Rights Act. In fact the advice was considered by Cabinet at the end of May, and was then quietly published on the Ministry of Justice’s website.

Given the racial component to the proposed co-governance structure of Three Waters and to the Te Mana o te Wai statements, which confer broad rights exclusively on mana whenua, that advice would seem to be highly relevant to the current public debate regarding the suitability of the reforms. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Government ducks Bill of Rights assessment on Three Waters bill”

THOMAS CRANMER:  ‘New Zealand has been duped’


‘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: Continue reading THOMAS CRANMER:  ‘New Zealand has been duped’

THOMAS CRANMER: Five Waters and a Park

As the government looks to push through the Water Services Entities Bill under urgency, it’s busy stuffing as much into its goodie bag as it can. THOMAS CRANMER wrote this ahead of the second reading of the Bill –

One week on from Parliament’s cross-party Finance and Expenditure Committee report on the Water Services Entities Bill, questions are starting to be raised about some of their recommendations.

On Monday, an excellent article from Graham Adams rightly identified the expansion of Te Mana o te Wai statements to include coastal and geothermal waters as constituting extraordinary mission creep – effectively transforming Three Waters into Five Waters. This eye-opening development has raised alarm bells amongst some commentators.

Coupled with that, a subtle change in the draft Bill has occurred. A section dealing with the preservation of rights and interests in water – which was previously positioned near the end of the Bill in clause 201 has been moved to a prominent position at the front of the Bill, where it now features as clause 9A, immediately after the clause on Treaty settlement obligations. This is a key provision for many iwi as it preserves their arguments over customary rights in water – it is the debate over who owns the water in New Zealand. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Five Waters and a Park”

THOMAS CRANMER: King Tut – the Tuhoe strongman who boasts of the National Park that disappeared

“We made a national park disappear” are the words of the Te Urewera chairman, Tamati Kruger – or as his iwi call him, King Tut.  Kruger’s triumph is an ominous portent to the consequences of the co-governance concept which the Ardern government champions.  THOMAS CRANMER writes – 

The High Court ruling last week that ordered an immediate halt to the burning of the huts in Te Urewera revealed some astonishing detail about what has gone wrong with the co-governance arrangements that were agreed in 2014.

The principal iwi negotiator for Tūhoe at the time was Tamati Kruger. Since then, he has gone on to be the chairman of Te Uru Taumatua (TUT), the Tūhoe governance body for Te Urewera. Kruger is a divisive figure – even within Tūhoe. In fact, the applicant for the emergency injunction to stop the huts being destroyed – Wharenui Clyde Tuna – is Tūhoe himself.

One of the revelations to emerge from last week’s injunction was that the Department of Conservation and TUT had not agreed their annual operational plan as required by the Te Urewera Act. That is primarily down to the fact that Kruger – the Tūhoe strongman installed by John Key’s government – has refused to engage with the department for the last two years. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: King Tut – the Tuhoe strongman who boasts of the National Park that disappeared”

THOMAS CRANMER: The Three Waters select committee reports back

On Friday, Parliament’s cross-party Finance and Expenditure Committee reported back after five months’ work on the Water Services Entities Bill. As expected, it rearranged some deck chairs THOMAS CRANMER writes… 

On Friday, Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta issued a press statement welcoming the proposed recommendations to improve the workability of water reform legislation which had been made by the Finance and Expenditure Committee.

“I thank the committee for its careful consideration of more than 80,000 submissions and welcome its recommendations. As the result of listening to public submissions, extensive changes have been proposed,” said Minister Mahuta.

Like so much of the Minister’s rhetoric, it bore only a loose association with reality. It was left to National to make the observation that the committee received some 88,383 submissions but only heard 227 oral submissions. Of the over 16,000 submissions administered by the National Party, over 1,600 requested an in-person submission, and the committee offered less than 12 this opportunity. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: The Three Waters select committee reports back”

THOMAS CRANMER: Three Waters and He Puapua

Despite the protestations of the Minister, the recommendations of the controversial He Puapua report are deeply embedded in Three Waters.  THOMAS CRANMER reports –

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the current government’s policies concerning co-governance, that the recommendations set out in the controversial report, He Puapua, are deeply embedded in the Three Waters reforms – particularly in relation to the operation of Te Mana o te Wai.

He Puapua is a report prepared for the then Minister for Maori Development, Nanaia Mahuta in 2019. It was commissioned by Cabinet to be the pathway for New Zealand to meet its commitment to the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples. Essentially, it is the road-map for Maori co-governance by 2040, the 200-year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

As we now know, Minister Mahuta directly appointed her family member, Waimirirangi Ormsby, to the working group which authored the report, with another family member, Tamoko Ormsby, featuring as a contributor. Amongst the numerous contracts and appointments awarded to family members of the Minister over last 3 years, it is this appointment that Act’s David Seymour identified as being “a clear breach of the Cabinet Manual”.

Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Three Waters and He Puapua”

CHRIS TROTTER: Much worse than it looks

Political  commentator CHRIS TROTTER writes –  

THE REID RESEARCH POLL is much worse than it looks. Twelve months from now, when the actual voting papers, as opposed to responses to pollsters’ questions, are counted, Labour’s tally is likely to be much lower than 32 percent. Why? Because the level of voter abstention will be higher than it has been for many elections. Higher than the pollsters at Reid Research and other agencies are willing to assume, which means that the pre-election polls will flatter the Left by a significant margin. When the true level of abstention is revealed on Election Night – especially in relation to Māori, Pasifika and Pakeha voters under 30 – the vicious destruction of the Labour Party by older, whiter and righter voters will be explained.

The flight to abstention in 2023 will reflect a turning away from politics that is likely to gather strength as Labour’s contentious legislation on Hate Speech, Three Waters and Co-Governance contributes to a political climate of unprecedented bitterness and strife. Continue reading “CHRIS TROTTER: Much worse than it looks”

THOMAS CRANMER:  Tuku Morgan, Three Waters and the management of conflict

Without explanation, Waikato-Tainui’s Tukoroirangi Morgan has been appointed to lead the northern Three Waters iwi body.  This raises fresh concerns about governance and how conflicts are managed. THOMAS CRANMER  writes – 

When Wayne Brown joined forces with the Mayors of Christchurch, Waimakariri and Manawatu last Monday to put forward an alternative proposal for the country’s water reforms, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, said that she was pleased the mayors saw that the current state of New Zealand’s water assets was untenable. She added that she would consider what they had raised and was keen for dialogue to continue.

In the press conference announcing the alternative proposal, the Mayors of Christchurch and Waimakariri had stated that, although they were did not support the current mega-entity model, they were “not opposed to co-governance”. Brown was more equivocal in his statements on the topic, preferring instead to observe that he “supports ideas that will work in practice”.   

Within days, a more forthright response to the mayors was made. Speaking at the National Iwi Leaders Chairs Forum in Taupo on Wednesday, Waikato-Tainui chairperson Tukoroirangi Morgan said:

I don’t know which world they belong to, this is 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand, this is about partnership … We will never be denied, we will never go silently in the night, our voice must be heard at the table and we must take our place, end of story.

Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER:  Tuku Morgan, Three Waters and the management of conflict”