Stuart Smith
National MP Kaikoura

The Government says it will legislate to create new entities to take over water assets owned by councils.

Clearly, some local councils can’t meet the costs of providing safe drinking, waste and storm water now – 20 per cent of mass drinking water supplies don’t meet national standards.

So is the criticism of the plan just politics, or is there a real issue we should be concerned about?



The Government’s new proposed three water reforms are nothing more than a Government centred overreach, which will undoubtedly take the ‘local’ out of local Government.

Ratepayers’ own their water assets, and under this new model, they will be taken from them and bundled into one of the four new water entities. For any single water entity, which might encompass up to 20 councils, there will only be six councillors (as well as six iwi representatives) in the “representative group” at the bottom of the pecking order.

That group then selects an independent panel, which selects a board, which appoints the entity management. This kind of bureaucracy is unheard of in New Zealand and quite frankly unnecessary.

There is no certainty from the Minister as to how the reforms will create the thousands of jobs that she claims and also cut costs, it simply makes no sense. On top of this, she has not shown how these reforms will actually help with water quality.

It is simply not credible to think that a huge bureaucratic monster would know more about priorities for local water infrastructure than councils do.

3 Waters Gunge. Cartoon credit SonovaMin. The BFD.

We live in a democracy in New Zealand, one which has central and local governance, and that needs to be respected. The most outrageous part of these three waters reforms is that the entities which will control your water assets will not have any accountability to you, the ratepayer.

Unsurprisingly the majority of councils do not support these reforms, but it’s falling on deaf ears as the Government prepares to force their policy on New Zealanders.

Councils were only given eight weeks to provide feedback to Government on what is arguably the biggest shake up to local government and water assets we have ever seen.

The fact the Government are prepared to use their Parliamentary majority and urgency to ram through legislation to force this on Councils is undemocratic in itself and also ignores the more than 55,000 people who signed our petition calling for the reforms to be dumped.

This shows that New Zealanders do not support the centralisation of their water assets.

I perfectly understand the need to consult with Maori on the proposed reforms, as has been the practice within existing relationships and in very good faith. But nobody has ownership rights over water, and tribal elites will not be accountable to the rightful owners of three waters assets, because these positions are appointed by Iwi, with at best a thin tenuous connection to ratepayers.

I’m proud to say that National will repeal the three waters reform proposed by this Government, and we will return the seized water assets to local councils because that is where they belong, in the hands of our councils who are democratically elected by us, the ratepayers.

Stuart Smith

MP for Kaikoura. Viticulture, EQC.

Reproduced with permission

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