Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty has announced major changes to NZ’s ‘affordable water reforms’ – The Waters today.
In a press release he said the government had ‘agreed’ to the establishment of ’10 new regionally-led entities.’
‘These reforms are absolutely essential. Leaving things as they are will mean unaffordable rate bills,” McAnulty said.
‘Over the last few months I’ve been working closely with Local Government leaders and relevant stakeholders on how to progress New Zealand’s long overdue water infrastructure reforms.
‘The feedback has been overwhelmingly clear that our water infrastructure deficit needs to be addressed now if we’re to save households from ballooning bills that will make water unaffordable. But also that the reform programme must be led at a regional level – we have listened closely and absolutely agree.
‘The cost of meeting the upgrades needed for our water systems is projected to be up to $185 billion over the next 30 years. Local councils cannot afford this on their own, and households in some areas could see rates rise up to $9,730 per year by 2054 if we do nothing.
‘The projected costs have been peer reviewed by both Farrierswier Consulting (an expert Australian regulatory economic specialists) and Beca (a leading international engineering firm) and make for pretty grim reading. Leaving councils to deal with this themselves will lead to unaffordable rate rises. It would be setting councils up to fail and I can’t in good conscience do that.
‘Under our proposal to establish 10 entities New Zealand households will still make big savings, projected at $2,770 – $5,400 a year by 2054 on average within each region.
‘By extending the number of publicly owned water entities to 10, every district council in the country will have a say and representation over their local water services entities through regional representative groups, forming a partnership between council representatives and iwi/Māori that will provide strategic oversight and direction to the entities.
‘These groups will continue to sit below the governance board, in which each member will be appointed on merit and qualification, but by increasing the number of entities we will be able to ensure the needs of every community, especially small rural towns, are heard and met.
‘Our reform proposals will respond to long-running problems that have resulted in rapidly rising rates, poor health and environmental outcomes for many communities, deteriorating infrastructure due to sustained underinvestment, and wide variation in service quality.
‘The need for investment is only getting greater. The recent flooding and cyclone is a taste of the extreme weather events to come, and our water infrastructure needs to be ready.
‘I have seen first-hand the impact of the devastating floods and extreme weather events. These events have highlighted the criticality of waters services, especially stormwater, for community adaptation and resilience. They have also shown the fragility of critical water infrastructure in some areas.’
However, the ACT Party’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Court called the reforms a ‘hollow rebrand.’
‘If Chris Hipkins had any respect for Kiwis then this morning’s Three Waters announcement would be that he’s getting rid of it completely. Instead he is unveiling a hollow rebrand that Kiwis won’t fall for,’ said Court.
‘New Zealanders aren’t stupid. Whatever way Hipkins tries to spin it, whatever he changes the name to, if the policy still expropriates ratepayer assets and divides New Zealanders by ancestry through co-government then Kiwis won’t have a bar of it.
‘Labour has wasted millions on taxpayer-funded propaganda ad campaigns and they’ve tried to bribe councils to get them on board. None of this has worked because the policy is fundamentally flawed, a shallow re-brand won’t make a difference either. RNZ reports there are mayors who are already publicly distancing themself from the re-branded regime because it doesn’t fix the problems of local control and co-governance.
‘Hipkins has been desperate to differentiate himself from Jacinda Ardern but, by reheating and rebranding co-governance, he’s showing he’s no different.
‘There are real problems with drinking water quality in some communities, failing wastewater networks and sewage overflows into rivers and onto beaches. None of these problems are solved by expropriating ratepayer assets or with co-government.
Waters said the current system could be improved without state-mandated centralisation and co-governance.
ACT’s plan would include:
- Provision for councils to enter voluntary “shared services” agreements, gaining the benefits of scale, while retaining local ownership and control
- Establishing long term 30-year Central Government-Local Government Partnership agreements to plan water infrastructure upgrades tailored to specific regions
- Establish Public-Private Partnerships to attract investment from financial entities such as KiwiSaver funds, ACC, iwi investment funds, etc.
- Expand the exemption from domestic supply for a single dwelling to also include all small water suppliers supplying fewer than 30 endpoint users.
The 10 new entities are:
- Bay of Plenty
- Tairawhiti-Gisborne & Hawke’s Bay
- Wellington, Wairarapa
- Te Tai Ihu, Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough
- Canterbury, West Coast
National’s local government spokesman Simon Watts told media the reforms were a rebrand of the ‘toxic’ Three Waters Reforms, that won’t fool kiwis.
‘The number of entities isn’t what New Zealanders care about – they care about ownership and control, and Labour’s rejigged proposal still locks local communities out of decision making.’
David Seymour – ‘Maori Caucus 1 – 0 Chris Hipkins’
Reacting to the news ACT Party leader said the government’s new Three Waters plan showed how powerful the Maori Caucus in Labour was.
‘Co-government remains part of Three Waters because the Prime Minister was either too scared to stare down the powerful Māori Caucus, or he did and he lost,’ said Seymour.
‘This shows how powerful the Māori Caucus is and that Chris Hipkins has no control over them. If Hipkins had control over of them, he would have at least dropped the unpopular and divisive co-government element of Three Waters. Instead, Māori MPs are riding roughshod over him.’
Image credit: Mike B