I write in response to the recent opinion piece by the Labour list MP, Marja Lubeck about the government’s controversial “Three Waters” proposals.
The first point to note is that no-one is claiming that water management is perfect in this country. We know there is work that needs to be done. Whilst underinvestment in water management has resulted in burst pipes and dirty water flowing into our rivers, in some parts of New Zealand, that doesn’t follow that this Three Waters format is the right answer.
A key objective of Three Waters proposal is an anti-democratic asset grab in the name of centralisation. Transferring the control of drinking water, waste water and storm water away from councils is the aim of that game, handing it over to unelected, unaccountable co-governed entities. We must not allow the handover of the strategic resource that is water to bodies over which most Kiwis will have no control.
The controversial Three Waters reforms have attracted wide-spread backlash, with a petition from the Taxpayers Union against the reform receiving almost 88,000 signatures, as well as 60 of the 67 councils around the country opposing the reforms as introduced. The Prime Minister, along with Minister Nanaia Mahuta, initially assured local councils that the scheme would be voluntary, only to later backtrack and announce that it will be forced on them. The National Party says the government must listen to the opposition of its people and put democracy back on the table.
Proponents of Three Waters are claiming that these reforms will save New Zealanders money, up to thousands per year. We know this is doubtful at best because the Government’s own peer review debunked any alleged savings due to the financial implications of co-governance not being taken into account. Furthermore, under a co-governance reform, the controlling groups could charge for water usage and there would be no requirement for councils to cut their rates to reflect the fact they will cease to supply water services.
It’s clear that New Zealanders are rejecting the Three Waters reform and this cannot be ignored. The fierce public disapproval sends a clear message: set aside Three Waters and go back to the drawing board. At a time when the Government needs to tighten their spending belt, the government needs to deliver a responsible solution for our water that preserves the democracy of its citizens and offers value-for-money for taxpayers.