Three Waters worse

The government’s Three Waters plan was so bad they had to throw millions of dollars at infantile propaganda in an attempt to convince us water quality was far worse than it is.

They then tried a  $2.5 billion dollar sweetener package which Treasury warned against:

. . . Last year the Government dropped a $2.5 billion dollar cash pot for councils to spend in a bid to get more mayors on board.

But Newshub can reveal Treasury warned against the handout, essentially calling it a bribe.

“The financial incentives package is intended to increase local authority goodwill towards the reforms and reduce political barriers,” Treasury wrote. 

It also said the Government didn’t provide any analysis for the cost of the package, nor any evidence it would be value for money.

“The paper does not include any analysis or basis for the quantum of the financial incentives package… nor does it provide evidence as to the value for money of this funding.”

As such, Treasury concluded it was not “good use of Crown funding”. . .

That could be said about a lot of government spending.

Now we’ve got a revised version of Three waters that is  worse than the original, Jordan Williams Taxpayers’ Union spokesman says:

“The Government is desperately holding up an imagined threat of privatisation to justify its asset grab. Ironically, the Government’s Three Waters plan itself is a form of privatisation for the way it allows iwi groups to profit from publicly-funded water assets, but prevents payments to councils.”

“The move to give Councils shares in the new water entities is an obvious attempt to ward off accusations that Three Waters is an asset grab. But it’s a deceit: regardless of their shareholdings, councils (and therefore ratepayers) will still be stripped of all the crucial rights of control that are usually associated with ownership. Councils won’t be allowed to receive a return from the water entities, yet that is specifically allowed for mana whenua groups. Ratepayers will no longer ‘own’ the assets in any meaningful sense.”

It’s Clayton’s ownership. Ownership in name with none of the usual property rights attached.

“On balance, the recommendations now adopted by the Government make Three Waters even worse. A new bureaucracy – a Water Services Ombudsman – is established with a ‘tikanga-based dispute resolution process’. There will be a separate consultation process for mana whenua. Perhaps the most insulting part of the revised plan is yet another public communications campaign to explain the ‘need for change’ to New Zealanders.”

Who’s going to pay for the new bureaucracy and additional propaganda?

“Grant Robertson’s claim that this co-governance model is supported by most councils is laughable. Every day the Taxpayers’ Union is being contacted by democratically elected officials alarmed at the undermining of democracy.”

“The Government has also tried to confuse the media and the public by ‘ruling out’ co-governance for the entity boards – which was never on the table. This is cynical political spin doctoring at its very worst. Kiwis will see straight through it.”

“The Government was never really serious about revamping this deeply unpopular policy. They stacked the Working Group with pro-Three Waters Mayors, made the group itself co-governed, and barred it from reviewing the governance arrangements that make the scheme so bureaucratic and unaccountable.”

The Union’s petition to stop Three Waters has been signed by 89,000 New Zealanders. Its TV advertising will be relaunching over the next few days – funded by thousands of Kiwis who have chipped in via

These tweaks won’t fix a broken agenda:

Labour needs to accept that their Three Waters agenda is well past saving and the tweaks they’ve made today do nothing to address the key concerns communities have about the reforms, National’s Local Government Spokesperson Simon Watts says.

“Even with these superficial changes, Labour’s Three Waters agenda is still fatally flawed.

“According to the Government, local councils will still be the ‘owners’ of their assets – but they won’t actually have any control over them. It’s like saying you own a house but don’t get to decide where to put the furniture.

“Local councils and communities will still lose control of their assets, and the unproductive and divisive co-governance structure remains.

“This is yet another slap in the face for the local voices who have again had their concerns disregarded by this Government that thinks it knows best.

“Labour had the opportunity today to finally admit these broken reforms won’t work, and go back to the drawing board to develop solutions that will actually solve the problems we face, like encouraging councils to collaborate, contract and form CCOs as National has proposed.

“Instead, the Government has fallen back on the same old centralisation and control agenda.

“National will not support reforms that will strip councils and ratepayers of control over their assets and will repeal Labour’s four entity model.”

Where does this leave property rights?

Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori says Government plans to force through water reforms virtually unchanged is a worrying attack on property rights and community voice.

The changes embed an unusual public shareholding model, where shareholders would have no rights other than the ability to decide whether or not to privatise services.

They also propose another level of complexity in governance, taking most councils even further away from a position of influence.

C4LD Chair and Manawatu District Mayor Helen Worboys said that this tinkering around the edges didn’t make the model itself any more palatable for communities.

“This is a dark day for local democracy as the Government has continued to force this reform through without the consent of its stakeholders or their communities.

“We could not be more disappointed that the Government has rejected an opportunity to reach a bi-partisan agreement that would deliver what they wanted, instead electing to press on with their reforms based on faulty assumptions and flawed analysis.

“Adding a Claytons shareholding for councils, that confers none of the normal benefits or obligations of ownership, does nothing to remove our real worries about community property rights and local voice.

“For us to hand over millions of dollars of assets our communities have paid for in return for a single share of no real value is absolutely absurd.

“If the Government can decide by decree to redefine ownership in this way it sets a worrying precedent over ownership on a far wider basis.”

The group has also condemned the further watering down of community input, which will particularly effect small councils.

“The model was already significantly flawed in denying any real influence from councils. With the new sub-regional groups it’s likely the voice and influence of smaller councils will be even more diluted,” she said.

“These changes will see many councils moved from being two steps away from the decision makers – to three.

“Our model shows how the outcomes of the reform can be delivered while ensuring the efficiencies of collaboration and balance sheet separation, but while still protecting local voice and community property rights.

“While we’re disappointed in this initial version of the legislation, we’re committed to working to get a better model in place that works for everyone.

“We’d urge everyone to get in touch with their local MPs to ensure they know what you think about this plan, and we’ll be encouraging significant local participation in the select committee process.”  . . .

The government started with two incorrect assumptions that all councils had problems and that central control was the only way to fix them.

They’ve been aided by the media helpfully highlighting stories of failed infrastructure and illness from dirty water.

Some councils do have problems and central government has a role in setting standards and auditing infrastructure to ensure it meets those standards.

But that doesn’t require taking over council assets and imposing an unwieldy and racist bureaucracy on us all.

We’re on the oldest rural water scheme in the country. Nothing in the government’s plans will improve it, everything will make it less responsive to local needs and much, much more expensive.


One Response to Three Waters worse

  1. Lloyd says:

    The third to last paragraph sums it up in a nutshell, namely that “central government has a role in setting standards and auditing infrastructure to ensure it meets those standards”


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