Expert group developing Three Waters repeal and replacement bill
The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has commissioned a Bill to repeal and replace the Government’s Three Waters scheme. Law firm Franks Ogilvie has been working on the Bill for several months, with an experienced parliamentary drafter and a Technical Advisory Group.
The Local Water Infrastructure Bill builds on the model proposed to Parliament by Communities 4 Local Democracy. That model was supported by a large number of asset-owning councils across New Zealand and is similarly supported by the Taxpayers' Union.
The Government’s Three Waters proposals would lead to higher water costs, no local control, more bureaucracy, and less democracy. The Bill project is intended to set out a substantive, workable alternative water infrastructure reform programme that addresses these concerns while fixing the problems councils currently face managing their water infrastructure.
Earlier this year, the Taxpayers’ Union Board appointed a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to provide guidance for and scrutiny of the Bill drafting process comprising the following members:
> Malcolm Alexander (Chair) – Consultant, former Board member of Infrastructure NZ, and former Chief Executive of Local Government New Zealand
> Dr Eric Crampton – Chief Economist at The New Zealand Initiative
> David Hawkins – former Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Watercare and former Mayor of Papakura District Council
> Councillor Sam McDonald – Christchurch City Council
> Ray Deacon – Economist at the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union and former Regulatory and Government Affairs Manager for Rio Tinto NZ
The Taxpayers’ Union will also make available on request – to people who can help ensure the Bill is ready to go and of high quality – the current version of the drafting instructions. They are of the type that would be given to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for Government bills.
The model proposed in the Bill was developed from published work by international water infrastructure experts Castalia, who developed Communities 4 Local Democracy’s (C4LD) model, and who have advised LGNZ, several councils and the Department of Internal Affairs on the water reforms. Castalia were consulted on aspects of the model and the Q&A.
The project expects to result in a Bill ready to be completely fleshed out soon after the election. Some of the technical details will be best done by drafters and officials with access to all the information held within the Government, and the PCO will need to review the work to ensure consistency with their current drafting style. Some important provisions of the Bill will be fully drafted and available to all parties to allow for a swift repeal and replacement of Three Waters should a Parliamentary majority exist to do so after the election.
The project has been made possible by the donations of thousands of Taxpayers’ Union supporters across New Zealand who have supported our campaign against the Government’s Three Waters proposals.
Callum Purves, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, said:
“The Government’s Three Waters proposals would lead to higher water costs, no local control, more bureaucracy, and less democracy. While Taxpayers’ Union has successfully led the campaign against Three Waters, given that it is clear the status quo is not working, it is perfectly reasonable for people to ask ‘if not Three Waters, then what?’
“This repeal and replacement Bill project is designed to add some meat to the bones of some of the alternative proposals set out by other organisations and political parties. Our alternative for water infrastructure reform addresses concerns about the current plans while ensuring that services and upgrades can be delivered in a financially sustainable way.”
Malcolm Alexander, Chair of the Technical Advisory Group, said:
“I would like to thank the members of Technical Advisory Group for their work on this project. We have sought to present a workable alternative to the Government’s Three Waters proposals that will address the issues in the Three Waters sector, protect community property rights, and be closely aligned to the model presented to Parliament by Communities 4 Local Democracy, a consortium of 30 asset-owning councils.
“We propose that all councils are required to move their water infrastructure assets into Council-Controlled Organisations – either on their own or with neighbouring authorities – that will ensure that they are properly and professionally managed and that will have better access to finance while still respecting the property rights of local communities.
“We also propose introducing a long overdue utility regulation regime for water infrastructure. The Auditor General will have an enhanced role in scrutinising infrastructure plans while the Commerce Commission will take responsibility for economic regulation and infrastructure disclosure. Taumata Arowai retains responsibility for water safety.”