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.


Slack and late


Oh dear, government rhetoric isn’t matched by performance yet again:

Newshub can reveal just over 60 percent of a group labelled ‘high-risk’ by the Government are yet to receive their first vaccination to protect them against COVID-19. 

They include frontline health workers, those in long-term care, and older Māori and Pacific people. 

And only half of another high-risk group – those who live with border workers or managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) employees – have received their first jab. . .

When it comes to getting vaccinated against the virus, the public messaging has been clear: we’re exceeding Government goals and doing well. When it comes to getting vaccinated against the virus, the public messaging has been clear: we’re exceeding Government goals and doing well. . . 

But Newshub has obtained Ministry of Health data that tells a different story when it comes to some of our highest-risk groups. 

“I think we’ve seen a lot of self-congratulatory talk by the Government,” said Otago University public health professor Nick Wilson.

“We should be really pushing the vaccination programme at a much faster rate.” . . 

The government’s claim to have gone hard and early in its response to Covid-19 was debatable.

The glaring gap between what they say and what’s happening with the vaccination roll-out is even worse – it’s both slack and late.

That poses a health risk to everyone who is unprotected and leaves us all with the threat that, like Taiwan and Victoria, we could be subjected to another lockdown.

The story behind the billboard


The Spinoff’s profile of Sean Topham and Ben Guerin, the principals of the very successful digital marketing company that carries their names, mentions work on ovarian cancer awareness on the biggest billboard in Times Square.

Newshub tells the story behind that billboard:

A Dunedin woman has scored a huge win to promote her cancer charity in New York.

Jane Ludemann, 32, has secured a free billboard in Times Square to mark World Ovarian Cancer Day. The giant advert is longer than a football field and calls for more funding and research for the disease. . . 

Kiwi creative agency Topham Guerin also helped out, designing an advert with a simple message alongside calls for more funding and research. . . 

The ODT also covered the story.

If you missed my post on Jane and living under the cancer sword you’ll find it here.

Get loyal or get out


Just days after National got a new leader, Newhub reports that caucus is still leaking:

Newshub has been told by National MPs the new leadership is demanding loyalty after details of leader Todd Muller’s new staffing line-up were leaked to Newshub over the weekend.

And despite that demand of loyalty, the top-secret fortress that is the National Party caucus is already leaking like a sieve – several have shared details of the closed-door meeting with Newshub. . . 

John Key used to remind his caucus that the media was never their friends. That hasn’t changed.

What on earth do the leakers think they will achieve? They are harming the party and won’t be helping themselves.

Leaking is stupid and it’s disloyal, and if there’s two things party members hate in its MPs it’s stupidity and disloyalty.

There’s less that four moths until the election.

National is starting from behind.

Winning isn’t impossible but it won’t be easy.

It will take everybody paddling the party waka, together in harmony.  Everyone must work to not only keep it afloat but heading in the right direction, not leaking which could sink it.

Whether the leaker/s is/are motivated by utu or delusions of their own righteousness they are in the wrong.

They have a stark choice – get loyal or get out and let the rest of caucus and the party volunteers who will be working with them, get on with what matters – replacing the government with one that is far better equipped to get New Zealand out of the mess it’s in.

Is it Muller?


Newshub reports  :

12:40pm – Sources have told Newshub Simon Bridges has lost the vote. Newshub understands the vote has been won by Todd Muller.

Update: – Nikki Kaye is now deputy.

My loyalty is to National and to its leadership, I congratulate Todd and Nikki.

My sympathy is with Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett who have worked very hard in what proved to be an impossible task.

KiwiCon lottery gets better for lucky few


KiwiBuild – or as it should be KiwiCon –  isn’t popular in Wanaka:

The South Island’s much-heralded first foray into KiwiBuild home ownership has been a bit of a fizzer — at least so far.

So few prospective homebuyers have entered the ballot for 10 KiwiBuild house and land packages in the Northlake suburb of Wanaka that the developer has asked to extend the ballot period by 10 days.

The ballot was due to close on Thursday.

KiwiBuild senior media adviser Mark Hanson said yesterday 20 ballot entries had been received.

‘‘Some houses have received no entries and the developer has asked us to extend the ballot to Sunday, November 18, to allow for people who they are working with more time to work through their pre-qualification process.’’ . . 

And Housing Minister Phil Twyford has backed down on penalties for those who flip KiwiBuild properties early:

Documents obtained by Newshub show owners will no longer have to give up all capital gain they make on the house if they sell it within three years. . . 

When Labour announced the policy in 2016, its plan to stop buyers reaping windfall gains was they must not on-sell their home for five years – or else they had to hand all the money they made to the Government.

That’s now changed to if buyers sell within three years, they must give up 30 percent of their profit. . .

There is big money to be made. Based on the last three years, the average price of a home in Papakura has risen from $569,000 to nearly $700,000, meaning house owners could have made $130,000 in the last three years.

That means even after the 30 percent penalty applied by the Government, they’d still pocket more than $90,000.

A $90,000 profit for selling up after three years – that’s very easy money.

But you don’t have to wait three years – you will get to keep 70% of the profit it you sell the very next day.

This is not the first KiwiBuild backdown we’ve seen. Since being in government, Mr Twyford has changed the price caps, the eligibility criteria and now this – a change which has the potential to leave KiwiBuild open for abuse.

With each announcement the KiwiBuild lottery gets better for the lucky few who win.

The government keeps saying KiwiBuild houses aren’t subsidised but if the government isn’t putting money in why would the owners have to hand over any profit if they sell?

At the very least there’s an opportunity cost with money spent on this policy not available for spending on the many areas of much greater need – and that’s people on well below the income level for those who qualify for the KiwiBuild lottery.

You can follow progress on the scheme here – so far only four houses have been sold.



Reassuring or warning?


Jacinda Ardern made public a letter she wrote to her deputy explaining what will happen when he’s acting Prime Minister while she’s on maternity leave.

She said she did this because of the public interest in the matter.

It looks like it was supposed to reassure us all she’ll still be in control.

It could also be taken to be a warning to her deputy.

His body language in the video at Newshub suggests he’s not particularly happy about that.

The text of the letter is here

Turei resigns


Meteria Turei has resigned as co-leader of the Green Party:

She has no-one but herself to blame, not for what she did as a beneficiary, but because of her refusal to admit what she did was wrong, accept responsibility for it and apologise.

Had she stayed she would have taken her party down with her.

Her co-leader James Shaw’s handling of the issue has damaged him too but Turei’s resignation will probably enable it to stay above the 5% threshold.

The Newshub Reid Research poll showing the Greens lose a third of its vote  – dropping 4.7 points to 8.3% – in a week may well have had something to do with her decision.

Labour’s poll lower


The 1 News Colmar Brunton poll released this week was bad news for Labour.

Its own poll is even worse.

Newshub has been leaked poll results from the company that does Labour’s internal polling which show it is in big trouble, two-and-a-half months out from the election.

The results show Labour is on 26 percent support – crashing from 34 percent in May. . . 

National is chugging along as usual – currently on 42 percent – then Labour (26 percent), the Greens (13 percent) and New Zealand First (14 percent). . .

The Roy Morgan poll released last night held better news for Labour:

The overall support for the governing National-led coalition was down 3.5% to 45.5% with National support down 3.5% to 43% while support for their Coalition partners was unchanged with Maori Party on 1.5%, Act NZ on 1% and United Future on 0%.

Support for a potential Labour/Greens alliance was up 4.5% to 44% driven by the 5% rise in support for Labour, now on 30.5%, while support for the Greens was down 0.5% to 13.5%. Support for New Zealand First was down 1% to 8%.

But that poll usually has bigger changes than the others and it’s the trend which matters.

The UMR polls shows a downward trend for both National and Labour.

That’s similar to what happened in 2002 when many voters didn’t think National, the bigger Opposition party, had a chance, but Labour, the main governing party,  didn’t benefit.

Act, NZ First and whichever iteration of what is now United Future was then, mopped up support instead.

This time neither Act nor United Future are gaining but NZ First is.

People tend to bank the good things a government does and the longer a party is in power the more people will take issue with what it does, or doesn’t do.

Even though polls continue to show a reasonable majority think the country is on the wrong right track, that might not be enough to return a stable, National-led government.


Could be a silly precedent


Labour is clearly rattled by the latest One News Colmar Brunton political poll which put the party down three to 26% since June.

Leader Andrew Little called it a bogus poll and now the party has released its internal poll results.


The Roy Morgan poll a couple of months ago which showed National on 53% was off-trend but the latest One News poll is far closer to others than Labour’s.

Kiwiblog has the four most recent poll results for National and Labour:

Individual polls are probably only of interest to political tragics but others might take more interest in the trends which have National in the mid 40s and suggest the UMR poll is an outlier.

Labour could have set a silly precedent and dug a hole for itself by releasing its own poll.

The media will want to know what the party’s internal polling shows next time one of the public ones doesn’t fit the party’s narrative.

If Labour doesn’t release it the obvious conclusion will be that it isn’t favourable either.

Had it not lost its spin doctors, one of them might have warned the party of that.

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