Three Waters : an unnecessary programme that will degrade our democracy with a dubious (and unnamed) form of governance

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta yesterday welcomed the independent Working Group report on the Three Waters Reform Programme.  She insists the programme is necessary to ensure all communities have access to affordable, safe and sustainable drinking, waste and storm water services.  BARRIE SAUNDERS and KARL DU FRESNE – former colleagues of Point of Order’s Bob Edlin – challenge this on their respective blogs and warn of the implications for our democratic structures….  


Three Waters – a totally unnecessary battle

The Three Waters proposal driven by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is a totally unnecessary, very divisive battle with local government and the people of New Zealand.  

The focus has been on whether there should be co-governance with iwi leaders, and also, whether it adequately prevents privatisation, which I see as a red herring maybe designed to divert attention from the real issues.  

The critical question is whether the failings of local government are such, that their Three Waters assets should be confiscated by the state, reformulated into four entities, and then handed back into a convoluted governance regime involving iwi and local government nominees.   

Having looked at the papers behind the proposals I do not believe they meet the necessary threshold.  Yes, there are problems, as Local Government NZ has recognised for many years, but they do not in my view justify central government overriding local government in this heavy-handed manner.  Continue reading “Three Waters : an unnecessary programme that will degrade our democracy with a dubious (and unnamed) form of governance”

Otago University pioneers bold new approach to the study of conflict

The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies says on its website it is the only centre of its kind in New Zealand and it addresses the most enduring and intractable problems confronting humanity.  It invites people to “join our passionate faculty to study development, peace-building and conflict transformation” and it offers a Master of Peace and Conflict Studies degree, one of very few such programmes in Australasia. But it is not without its own troubles.  KARL DU FRESNE reports:  

Sometimes irony is just too delicious for words.

The Otago Daily Times recently reported that the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago has been exposed as having a culture described as “toxic”, “paralysing”, “isolating” and “divisive”.

Those words come from a confidential 31-page report leaked to the ODT, which said the centre is known on campus as the “conflict and conflict” centre. The report described the centre as dysfunctional, with “deeply entrenched conflicts”. Perhaps they could use themselves as a case study.

It’s a story that falls squarely into the “you couldn’t make this up” category, but which seems, for reasons that I couldn’t speculate on, to have been ignored by the wider New Zealand media. Continue reading “Otago University pioneers bold new approach to the study of conflict”

Graham Adams: Three Waters: A sorry tale of government deception and media inertia

Nanaia Mahuta’s plans to reshape water infrastructure have been so poorly scrutinised that voters still don’t know whether iwi will receive royalties — despite the legislation being scheduled for next month. Graham Adams reports…

Anyone who has travelled around New Zealand over the summer break will likely have seen signs saying “Stop Three Waters!” on fences along highways and rural roads.

It is also likely at least a third of those travellers who noticed the signs will have little — or no — idea of what Three Waters will mean in practice.

That was the dismal information offered by the latest 1News Kantar Public Poll. And, unfortunately, 1News’ coverage of its own poll gave some clue why such ignorance is widespread, even as the issue divides councils — and a big chunk of voters — throughout the country.

In fact, the state broadcaster offered such brief and garbled analysis of the questions it had commissioned on Three Waters it was difficult to understand why it had bothered taking the nation’s pulse on the topic in the first place.

Its once-over-lightly segment certainly helped explain why 35 per cent of those polled had either not heard of Three Waters (13 per cent) or didn’t know enough about it have an opinion (22 per cent).

Continue reading “Graham Adams: Three Waters: A sorry tale of government deception and media inertia”

Democracy or partnership? A critical issue revisited

Guest post by Barrie Saunders

Last year I posted an article about democracy or partnership and asked which of the two do we want – because we can’t have both.

Since then, the partnership and co-governance concepts have gained legs with the Three Waters proposals and the twin health authorities.  In addition, at local government level in the same vein, we have seen non-elected appointees given voting rights on council committees.

PM Jacinda Ardern uses the “partnership” term frequently and in a TVNZ interview with Jack Tame, National Leader Christopher Luxon also equated the Treaty with partnership.

When starting a journey, it is useful to know where it will end;  otherwise one can end up in an uncomfortable zone, from which retreat is difficult.  Somehow, I suspect few political leaders, other than the Maori Party and ACT, have really thought through the partnership concept, and we are heading for a rough time, unless there is a course correction.

Continue reading “Democracy or partnership? A critical issue revisited”

Follow the money: matauranga Maori and the millions at stake

A lot of funding and influence is riding on the successful casting of indigenous knowledge as equal to science. GRAHAM ADAMS says the debate over the NCEA science syllabus is only the tip of an iceberg.

Anyone trying to get a grip on the mātauranga Māori debate over the past several months is likely to be completely puzzled by now.

The incendiary stoush was sparked last July by seven eminent professors stating in a letter to the Listener that indigenous knowledge is not science and therefore does not warrant inclusion in the NCEA syllabus as being equal to science.

Yet in the five months since the letter was published, virtually no one among those opposing the professors has argued convincingly that mātauranga Māori is scientific (even if some small elements of it could be called proto-science or pre-science).

On the face of it, the debate by now should have been declared a clear win for the professors and their supporters.   In rebuttal, their principal critics — including the Royal Society NZ, Auckland University Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater, the Tertiary Education Union and prominent Covid commentators Drs Siouxsie Wiles and Shaun Hendy — have not gone beyond asserting that  mātauranga Māori is a valuable and unique system of knowledge that is complementary to science.

This view is not contentious in the slightest — and was explicitly endorsed by the professors themselves in their letter. Continue reading “Follow the money: matauranga Maori and the millions at stake”

Dawn Freshwater kicks for touch on mātauranga Māori  

As international criticism mounts, Auckland University’s Vice-Chancellor pledges a symposium next year to debate the role of Māori knowledge in science education. Graham Adams suggests a public apology to the seven professors would show this is more than a PR exercise.  

Reading the statement last week by Dawn Freshwater announcing a symposium to be held next year to debate the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science, it was hard not to feel at least a little sceptical about her new-found enthusiasm for free speech.

After all, in late July the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland effectively hung seven professors from her own university out to dry soon after their letter “In Defence of Science” was published in the Listener.

The professors’ 300-word letter was written in response to plans to include mātauranga Māori in the school science curriculum and to give it equal standing with “Western/Pakeha epistemologies” — which means subjects such as physics, biology and chemistry.

The professors acknowledged the value of indigenous knowledge as “critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices” and that it “plays key roles in management and policy”. But, while it “may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways”, they concluded, “it is not science”. Continue reading “Dawn Freshwater kicks for touch on mātauranga Māori  “

Graham Adams: Ardern on the hook over Three Waters


Jacinda Ardern was very happy to front the Three Waters campaign in its early stages. But after a disastrous $3.5 million PR ad campaign, vocal opposition from most councils, and a $2.5 billion sweetener thrown back in her face as a “bribe” in mid-July, she exited stage left, leaving the heavy lifting to her ninth-ranked Cabinet minister, Nanaia Mahuta.

Now, in the wake of Mahuta’s announcement on October 27 that all of the nation’s 67 councils will be forced into the new arrangement, Waimakariri mayor Dan Gordon and other mayors want a meeting with Jacinda Ardern to discuss their concerns.

Having been told repeatedly by Mahuta that joining Three Waters would be a choice, the councils have not exactly been reassured by her promise that further consultation would be undertaken with local government to ensure adequate governance, representation and accountability of the new water entities to the communities they serve.

Gordon made his feelings clear in a radio interview last week: Continue reading “Graham Adams: Ardern on the hook over Three Waters”

RBNZ will be feeling the heat as critics assail its focus on climate change – and mention bank research to buttress their stance

That whistling   sound out  of  Wellington  has  come  from the Establishment  as  it  witnesses  a powerful attack   on  the  Reserve Bank. 

One volley has been fired by senior economist Matt Burgess in a research note for the  Wellington-based think-tank,  the  NZ  Initiative.  In Climate of fear: How the Reserve Bank is overstepping its mandate, he documents what he maintains are serious breaches of the RBNZ’s responsibilities as regulator of the financial system, including one instance of misconduct, as it becomes unduly preoccupied with climate change.

A second volley was fired by the NZ Initiative’s chief economist, Eric Crampton, in an article posted by NewsroomHe raises questions about the RBNZ’s independence from political interference. 

A third has been fired by an experienced business journalist, Jenny Ruth, in an article for Business Desk.  She has questioned the bank governor’s credibility. 

All three refer to the RBNZ’s recent Climate Changed report, which included a strongly worded threat to the institutions it regulates. Continue reading “RBNZ will be feeling the heat as critics assail its focus on climate change – and mention bank research to buttress their stance”

Mahuta is off (at long last) to visit six countries and host a festival of indigenous and tribal ideas at Expo in Dubai

Excitement is mounting in the Beehive.  Nanaia Mahuta is contemplating her first overseas visit as our Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Not, we might think, to Australia or the Pacific Islands (although she will drop in on the Aussies on the outward journey).

No, this is further afield, to host Te Aratini at Expo 2020 and visit six countries as well as meet with seven foreign ministers and a range of international representatives.

She announced yesterday she will leave New Zealand tomorrow

“… on an international programme to advance Aotearoa New Zealand’s interests on a range of issues, including our COVID-19 response and recovery and engagement in the Indo-Pacific.”

She acknowledged this is the first international visit of a New Zealand Foreign Minister since COVID-19 broke out across the globe. Continue reading “Mahuta is off (at long last) to visit six countries and host a festival of indigenous and tribal ideas at Expo in Dubai”

Graham Adams: Jacinda Ardern and the Ghost of David Lange


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The Prime Minister is increasingly looking like a political hostage as Nanaia Mahuta presses on with the Three Waters reforms. Graham Adams sees history rhyming as her powerful Maori caucus flexes its muscles.

David Lange is one of the most tragic figures of our modern political history. Highly articulate and entertaining, he was ushered into power in a landslide in 1984 during an economic and financial crisis. Feted as the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th century, he dazzled the nation with his wit and intellect.

By the time he resigned in 1989, however, he was seen as a weak and malleable leader who had backed policies he would later regret supporting. Furthermore, the fact that his party did not advertise its radical economic agenda before the 1984 election has tainted the legacy of the Fourth Labour government ever since.

It took a while before it became clear that Lange was using his larger-than-life persona and seductive oratory to sell a transformation of New Zealand’s economic landscape on behalf of a powerful cabal in his Cabinet whose intentions he seemed not to fully comprehend.

Eventually it became obvious that he was the monkey and Roger Douglas and his neoliberal Rogernomes were the organ-grinders. As columnist Bruce Jesson put it in 1986, the charismatic Lange was “perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the television age” but he was “swept along by events beyond his control”.

It seems likely that Ardern will end up being viewed in a similar way. When she was anointed by Winston Peters in 2017, she was feted as the youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years, before being returned to power three years later in a landslide in response to a pandemic.

Her charisma and glamour are perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the social media age but she is obliged to dance to the tune played by Nanaia Mahuta, Willie Jackson and the Maori caucus — and by the others in her Cabinet, including David Parker and Andrew Little, who support their revolutionary agenda. Continue reading “Graham Adams: Jacinda Ardern and the Ghost of David Lange”