THOMAS CRANMER: Three Waters passes but at what cost?

The government has paid a huge political cost in pushing through the Three Waters legislation, and in doing so has exposed rifts within Cabinet and damaged the reputation of Minister Mahuta.  THOMAS CRANMER writes – 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a government with a reputation for profligacy resolved to spend so much of its political capital to push through the deeply unpopular Three Waters bill into law this week.  The full cost is yet to be tallied but from the look of their shell-shocked faces as they sat in Parliament, Labour MPs are starting to realize that a good number of them will be paying with their jobs when the general election arrives next year.

Even the once-imperious Minister Mahuta has been damaged by the passage of this Bill into law. Ignoring many valid concerns raised by opposition parties, councils, iwi and the public, the Minister pushed too hard in the closing stages of the legislative process. First, by expanding the scope of Te Mana o te Wai to cover geothermal and coastal waters, and then in the breathtakingly brazen attempt to entrench a point of policy into law.

Both issues were not understood by the Minister’s Cabinet colleagues, which left them woefully exposed when they were questioned by the media and opposition parties.

The effect is that the Minister looks less like an experienced lawmaker and more like a reckless chancer who pulled a number on her own parliamentary colleagues. Undoubtedly this has damaged Mahuta’s reputation at what could be a difficult time for her to navigate. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Three Waters passes but at what cost?”

THOMAS CRANMER: A government humiliated

National’s deputy leader, Nicola Willis, applied one of the many lashings that the government received in the House this week:  ‘Today we have the grovelling back-down, but the stain on our democracy, the damage to our constitution, will remain.’  THOMAS CRANMER writes – 

As much as the government tried to maintain the line repeated by the Prime Minister yesterday that, “We voted for it as a team, we’re fixing it as a team”, the cracks in a divided caucus and dysfunctional leadership team were all too evident.

When Minister Mahuta, the chief architect of the Three Waters reforms, stood up in the House last Wednesday evening to respond to SOP 285 tabled by Eugenie Sage, she said that the amendment would test the will of the House. Perhaps only her closest confidants understood that the Minister intended to test the will of her own colleagues to a far greater degree than that of the opposition.

Whilst it is impossible to determine with any certainty what Labour’s caucus understood it would be voting for during the Committee of the Whole stage and who Labour’s chief whip took his instructions from when he applied Labour’s party vote in favour of SOP 285, the effect of Mahuta’s power play has been to expose the two rival camps within Cabinet which remain unreconciled following yesterday’s reversal. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: A government humiliated”

THOMAS CRANMER: Questions remain over the appointment of Tuku Morgan

Many questions remain unanswered about the appointment of Tuku Morgan to his new Three Waters role, and the reforms are set to speed up once this Bill is passed into law.  THOMAS CRANMER writes – 

Four weeks after Tuku Morgan issued a press statement confirming that he had been appointed as chairperson of the entity A iwi representative group for Three Waters questions still remain as to the process for that appointment. It also remains unclear why it was considered appropriate to appoint Morgan to a role within entity A when he had represented entity B in working group discussions only months earlier.

As well as confirming his new role, Morgan’s statement included the following:

“While it is easy and convenient for Auckland Council and Watercare to keep increasing the water take from our awa tupuna to supply water to Taamaki Makaurau, it is not sustainable.”

Following the announcement I asked the Department of Internal Affairs for some details about Morgan’s appointment process. A spokesperson responded: Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Questions remain over the appointment of Tuku Morgan”

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”

Unions press ahead to win “fair pay” agreements. But what if they add to inflationary pressure?

One of  NZ’s leading economists Cameron Bagrie told  the TV3 AM show on Tuesday the increase in wages in NZ is a “success” but we are getting to a point of too much success.

His warning came as  the Dominion-Post reported what it called “an avalanche”  of fair pay applications are expected to be made over the next few months as unions gather momentum to launch bids for better pay for workers under the new fair pay agreement law.

Fair pay agreements set out specific conditions and deals between workers and employers in an industry or occupation, with the regime for establishing them coming into effect next month.

They can be triggered by support from 1000 workers or 10% of a workforce. The fair pay legislation stemmed from a major plank in the Labour Party’s election policy. 

So how will that  “avalanche”  fit  with what the Reserve Bank  is  trying to do  with its action  to halt the momentum in inflationary pressure?.

Will  it be  another  economic disaster to be  chalked up by the Ardern government?

Here is  what  Bagrie told  AM  viewers:

“What we’ve got there at the moment is success. It’s a great story that wages are moving up, of course, but we are now into that zone where it’s too much success because it’s actually adding to inflation.”

It’s only a  month since the Ardern government passed into  law its flagship fair pay legislation.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood called it an historic moment for New Zealand workers.

“The Fair Pay Agreements Bill will improve employment conditions, by enabling employers and employees to bargain collectively for industry or occupation-wide minimum employment terms,” he said.

 “By increasing bargaining co-ordination to agree minimum employment terms within a sector, outcomes for vulnerable employees will be improved and we will see growth in the incomes of New Zealand employees.”

Similarly, the Greens said the passing of the legislation was a “landmark change” and a “huge step forward”.

But will the  enthusiasm for  the  new  legislation  be  as  strong if, as Cameron   Bagrie  says,  it  adds to  inflationary pressure  just as the Reserve Bank raises interest rates again in its battle to control the inflation that is pushing  up mortgage bills so fast?

As the Dominion-Post reported this week,many sectors are already prepared to get their applications for fair pay agreements through on December 1.

First Union’s Louisa Jones said bus driver and supermarket retail members wanted to initiate the process and put in applications as soon as possible.

“This is massive. Workers are excited to try and do it.”

They already had over 1000 signatures for supermarket workers, she said.

Earlier this month a deal saw Countdown staff receive an average pay rise of 12% over a two-year collective agreement, with the union wanting to see other supermarket workers offered a similar rise.

First Union is working with the Tramways Union on the bus driver application, with secretary Kevin O’Sullivan saying they would have the numbers to kick off the fair pay process, “no problem at all”.

 O’Sullivan says people in regional NZ and smaller towns will benefit most from fair pay agreements.

“I’m completely confident we’ll [see] no problem having the numbers. The issue will be once we get down to negotiations”.

O’Sullivan said a fair pay agreement would have the most impact in the regions and in smaller towns.

As Point of Order sees it, it would be fiendishly ironic if the wage increases negotiated under the new fair pay legislation add to inflationary  pressure within the economy.

Thomas Cranmer: Three Waters, Te Mana o te Wai and a control mechanism the Govt is providing for the sole use of mana whenua

Thomas Cranmer is  the pseudonym adopted by a legal analyst who has been carefully dissecting the Three Waters legislation and tweeting his findings on Twitter.

Over some months, he has been unpicking the threads of the Three Waters command structure to reveal the extent of the control being gifted to Māori over water.

This is the first of a series of articles he is posting on the Three Waters issues…

Three Waters and Te Mana o te Wai

Deep within the Water Services Entities Bill is a mechanism that will have significant  influence at the operating level of the structure – it is a mechanism that is only available to mana whenua.

By the Government’s own admission the Three Waters reform is a highly complicated proposal made necessary by the need to upgrade our existing water infrastructure whilst upholding the Crown’s Treaty obligations. But despite its complexity the public has been repeatedly assured in plain and simple terms that co-governance will not give Maori ownership or control of water assets. Continue reading “Thomas Cranmer: Three Waters, Te Mana o te Wai and a control mechanism the Govt is providing for the sole use of mana whenua”

Abortion regulation – in New Zealand and the USA – belongs in their democratically elected legislatures 


Guest column by Nicholas Kerr 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comments about the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling on abortion inadvertently help explain why the court was right to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states.  She noted that New Zealand “recently legislated to decriminalise abortion and treat it as a health rather than criminal issue.”

The passage of that legislation was only the latest in a long and incremental series of policy changes on the subject that have taken place over the past century. 

While many policy issues in New Zealand have divided the country, the divisions have tended to be short-lived as each side had their voices heard and the debates concluded.

As I think back to my days growing up in New Zealand during the 1980s and ‘90s, I recall many controversial public policy debates, but abortion isn’t one of them. Continue reading “Abortion regulation – in New Zealand and the USA – belongs in their democratically elected legislatures “

We don’t recall Ministers drawing attention to their new road-block laws – but Hone Harawira is making the most of them

There were no new statements on the Beehive website when we checked today, which means ministers have nothing fresh to announce – or rather, nothing they want to boast about or let us know about.

Matters such as changes to the Covid laws which determine who can mount road blocks to stop people going where they might want to go.  

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Act (No 2) 2021 was enacted on 20 November 2021.

According to the  Ministry of Health website, this legislation mainly continues to enable the Minister for COVID-19 Response to issue Orders to respond to COVID-19 in a flexible and agile way.  

Many of the changes made by this Amendment Act are technical in nature. These include clarifying some terms in the Act and improving transparency around decision making.


Most of the changes in this Amendment Act will not immediately have direct impacts on the general public. However, future Orders made under the Act using these changes may impose obligations or requirements on individuals to ensure the Government can supress and minimise the impact of COVID-19 and reconnect New Zealand.

The one change that will have a more immediate direct impact on all New Zealanders is the increase of infringement penalties for people who breach orders under the Act. The Government believes these higher penalties will more accurately reflect the risks associated with breaching an Order. Continue reading “We don’t recall Ministers drawing attention to their new road-block laws – but Hone Harawira is making the most of them”