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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: 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: 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”

National and ACT remind us that they would pull the chain on the govt’s Three Waters legislation

Buzz from the Beehive

Readers of Point of Order will be familiar with the raft of issues that bedevil legislation to  implement the government’s Three Waters reforms.

They extend far beyond co-governance to financing and debt arrangements and have been revealed in a comprehensive series of articles by Thomas Cranmer.

The government is charging on with the reforms regardless, after Parliament’s Labour-dominated Finance and Expenditure Committee reported back comparatively minor changes to the Water Services Entities Bill that will establish  four publicly owned water entities to deliver water services around the country.

In statements yesterday, National’s Simon Watts said the Government has failed to use the opportunity to listen and make material changes to the Bill.

“National would work with communities to develop solutions that work for them, instead of going from the top down. We will repeal Labour’s Three Waters disaster.”

Continue reading “National and ACT remind us that they would pull the chain on the govt’s Three Waters legislation”

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”

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”

THOMAS CRANMER: Wayne Brown lays down the challenge to Ardern and Mahuta

The Mayors of Auckland, Christchurch and Waimakariri deftly proposed an alternative plan for Three Waters on Monday and despite the Government’s initial response, the ball remains in its court. THOMAS CRANMER writes –

The press conference was held in Auckland and although it was led by Brown he made only the briefest of opening remarks before handing over to Waimakariri Council Mayor Dan Gordon, who announced “the path forward” with what he described as the “new consensus plan”.

Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger then spoke in support of the proposal.

A fourth Mayor, Helen Worboys of Manawatu, was also scheduled to attend but was unable to do so due to family circumstances. Thus, whilst the press conference had all the optics of an Auckland proposal, it was clear that the impetus was coming from further south.

Indeed, despite the claim from Dan Gordon that this was a “new” plan, it was also clear that this proposal was based on a significant amount of the C4LD analysis and was broadly in line with the opposition to Three Waters that had been voiced in the recent local government elections.

That in itself is not a bad thing. The fact that this proposal leverages off the C4LD and Castalia work gives it more weight and counters any arguments that this is a half-baked plan concocted by novice mayors.

Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Wayne Brown lays down the challenge to Ardern and Mahuta”

THOMAS CRANMER: Te Urewera is not co-governance – it is Tuhoe-governance (and Mahuta is tapping into it for Three Waters)

Protests led by Tūhoe elders have brought the media spotlight back to Te Urewera as the governing body removes 48 huts.  Some consider this to be co-governance and it’s the model which Nanaia Mahuta is applying to her Three Waters reform.  But THOMAS CRANMER – who urges us to take a hard look – says we will find it is far from co-governance.  He writes: 

 Te Urewera is back in the headlines and it is important to consider why that is the case. Increasingly it is held up by the government and its supporters as an example of co-governance in action. A governance model put in place by the Key government in 2014, and a working example of why co-governance is not new nor particularly controversial.

It is also used as an example of effective Crown-iwi partnership when the Three Waters co-governance model is criticised and it forms the governance model which is currently being rolled out in the Milford Sounds and elsewhere across the country.

Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: Te Urewera is not co-governance – it is Tuhoe-governance (and Mahuta is tapping into it for Three Waters)”

Thomas Cranmer: Sidestepping Conflicts – Wellington Style

Thomas Cranmer: It’s Stop Work on Three Waters!

Newly elected Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has declared Three Waters ‘doomed’ as Watercare is ordered to stop work and S&P announces it will take no new credit-rating decisions until after the 2023 general election, which it calls ‘vital’.  This article continues a series by THOMAS CRANMER, the pseudonym adopted by a legal analyst who has been carefully dissecting the Three Waters legislation. He writes

The local government elections have been widely viewed as a referendum on Three Waters but in reality they also appear to have triggered a series of announcements which dramatically call into question the viability of the controversial project.

It was no coincidence that, in the aftermath of those elections, with anti-Three Waters councillors in the ascendancy, Standard & Poor’s made its announcement that it would not be making any adjustments to the New Zealand Government or local authority credit ratings until after the 2023 general election. At first glance that may not appear significant but if you look at the detail of the message it becomes eye-opening.

 By way of background, Standard & Poor’s is the global ratings agency which reviewed the proposed Three Waters structure last year in order to issue an indicative credit rating for the water services entities. Then earlier this year it issued another report setting out indicative credit rating implications to Auckland Council and Wellington City Council of implementing the proposed reforms. This is normal practice for these types of financings.

The government pays S&P a fee and it provides them with indicative ratings based on various hypothetical scenarios. Those ratings then form part of the marketing material which is provided to potential lenders.

During this marketing phase it’s important to generate positive momentum behind the lending opportunity in order to attract a sufficient number of influential lending institutions for the financing to be a success. Any negative ‘noise’ around a potential deal coming to market can severely jeopardise its chances of success.

Continue reading “Thomas Cranmer: It’s Stop Work on Three Waters!”