Predictably, the Government intends to go ahead with its proposed four independent three water entities after numerous councils around the country rejected it as an option.
Typically reacting to this decision to push ahead with the delivery of three waters reform with a “flawed” model, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says it is “extremely disappointing and robs communities of a voice.
“While Christchurch has acted in good faith throughout the reform process, today’s announcement shows that the Government has been fixated on one model of delivery from the outset,” says Dalziel.
“The Government gave us and other local authorities just eight weeks to analyse the proposed model for reform – a model that strips local government of one of its core functions.
“The Government then spent just three weeks analysing the feedback provided by 67 Councils. This feels very much like pre-determination and a breach of natural justice.
“We are not opposed to reform; we accept that there are huge infrastructure challenges and financial pressures across the country in relation to meeting new safety and environmental standards for water and wastewater.
“However, we simply do not accept the model for reform that is now being mandated is the right one.
“Christchurch has invested heavily in its three waters infrastructure and our communities are relying on us to fulfil our commitment to having an unchlorinated drinking water supply by seeking an exemption from the chlorine mandate which has been put in place.
“The model the Government has put forward does not allow us to insist that the new water entity pursues and maintains that exemption. That simply is not acceptable to us.
“We believe there is an alternative model which would allow us to work towards removing chlorine from our drinking water, but it seems like the Government is not listening to us.
“We also made it clear in our feedback that the delivery of stormwater services should remain with the council. The Crown thinks that stormwater is managed in pipes, whereas ours is managed in an integrated way, through wetlands, floodplains and natural landscapes. We are not prepared to compromise that integrated approach.
“Today’s [27 October 2021] announcement takes the decision out of our hands, but we will continue to voice our concerns to the Government through the submission process. We will also be strongly encouraging our communities to express their views.”
Opposition parties have also been quick to condemn the decision. ACT says it will; “ be campaigning to return stolen property to councils, reversing Three Waters reforms and restoring democracy to New Zealand.”
ACT’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Court says; “If Labour steals it, ACT will give it back. It doesn’t occur to Nanaia Mahuta that if people don’t like her plan, maybe they’re trying to tell her something, like it’s a stupid plan that doesn’t stack up and won’t work.”
The Government’s hapless attempts at ‘persuasion’ have failed, he adds. “It gave councils just six weeks to respond to its Three Waters proposal and failed to consider how much time would be needed to consult with communities.”
National’s Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says; “This move is tantamount to state-sanctioned theft of assets that ratepayers have paid for decades to own.
“Labour’s four-entity model is fundamentally broken. It will create needless bureaucracy, strip away local control, and put distance between communities and decision-makers. Water services will be controlled by a complex smorgasbord of unelected appointees and officials.
“Ratepayer-owned water assets will be bundled into these mega entities with virtually no accountability. The governance structure will be messy and confused.
“By forcing the Three Waters plans on councils, Labour would be expressly ignoring every mayor who pleaded for a pause, and the over 55,000 people who signed National’s petition calling for the plans to be dumped,” he says.
“National opposes the Three Waters asset grab. If Labour rams its plan through, we have committed to repealing the entity model when we form the next government in 2023 and returning seized water assets to councils.
“We’ll continue to fight Labour’s centralisation and control agenda. It’s vital we keep the ‘local’ in local government.”