The daring of water resources takes hold of the mind
OPINION: If the government, especially Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, had ever imagined that the Three Waters reforms would proceed without too much opposition, this week’s poll should have shattered such illusions.
The poll shows that a majority of New Zealanders oppose the reforms, 56% to 19%. And this in all political parties, age groups and regions. The ACT and national voters are the most opposed, but Labor voters are against 39% to 28%, and the Greens too – 37% to 31%.
It was conducted by David Farrar’s Curia Research for the New Zealand Taxpayers Union of 1,000 eligible voters contacted by mobile and landline phones. The maximum margin of error is 3.1%.
Soothing TV commercials portraying the reforms as aimed at ensuring safe drinking water is available to everyone clearly have not worked. This is not surprising because they don’t deal with the problems, they only cover them up.
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* Mahuta excludes nationwide NZTA style funding for 3 Waters upgrades
Under the proposed reforms, two things are happening. One is that the billions of dollars in water-related assets owned and operated by the 67 territorial councils are transferred to four new entities.
Many councils have already separated their water-related activities from the day-to-day activities of the councils, but this move would move assets even further away from the control of ordinary citizens.
The governance and management methods proposed further exacerbate this lack of control. The new arrangements provide for the boards and iwi to appoint a regional representation group, which will appoint an independent selection committee and this committee will select the members of the board of directors to lead the new entity.
How lucky is an ordinary person to influence politics? It is simply a massive transfer of power and control from the elected representatives of our people to an unelected elite.
If you are more of a conspirator – and many are on this issue – you will see the new entities, which will have strong iwi representation, such as a cover for the transfer of ownership, control or cash flow to the Maori. A sharing of resources with a Treaty partner, but without a mandate from the population to do so and without the consent of the taxpayers and water users who constituted the assets.
Minister Mahuta did not directly address this issue and her silence only increased the level of paranoia on the right.
For my part, I simply cannot accept that this is the government’s agenda. No minister could have imagined that they could, through administrative sleight of hand, take billions of dollars in council assets and put them in the hands of an unelected elite remote from the people.
The audacity of such a scheme is puzzling. Ordinary people would quickly get up in indignation and shout âasset grabâ, âhands off the waterâ, âleave our pipes aloneâ, and the like.
It would be irresponsible and politically foolish for a government to contemplate this and risk the backlash that would follow when people understood what was going on.
The agreement between New Zealand’s local government, the body representing city, district and regional councils, and the Crown was also revealed last week.
A chief agreement between the two states, “The Crown proposes to provide continued support to LGNZ, through separate funding agreements with LGNZ … to enable LGNZ to strengthen support within the local government sector for the three waters reform program. “
The LGNZ is supposed to represent the councils to the government. Instead, he gets paid to represent the government on the boards, precisely the reverse of what is supposed to happen.
It’s a perversion of the normal, money-colored representation process to boot. It is a shameful and undemocratic lack of judgment as well.
John Bishop is a Wellington politics veteran who has covered politics, business and economics in various ways for Radio NZ, Television NZ and the National Business Review over the past 40 years. He helped set up the New Zealand Taxpayers Union. He never joined any political party. He is the father of National List MP Chris Bishop. All opinions expressed are his.