Taxpayer Update: Major news on the fight to Stop Three Waters
We wouldn't usually send out a newsletter in the evening, but I wanted to share today's news (including an update on the Three Waters legal challenge) as soon as possible.
There's a lot of Three Waters material here, but if you scroll through you'll also find important updates on wacky spending at Creative NZ, and a dodgy Government-backed restructure at Fonterra.
Stop Three Waters roadshow launches with a bang 🎉
Despite it being a work day, and with only a few days' notice, more than a hundred local supporters turned out for the first event of our Stop Three Waters roadshow.
Local Councillors Sam MacDonald and Aaron Keown were first to sign the official "Community Leaders' Appeal" calling on the Prime Minister to protect local democracy and Stop Three Waters.
And local ACT MP Toni Severin got big applause for committing to reversing Nanaia Mahuta's co-governance 'reforms' if ACT are part of the next Government.
Tomorrow, Jordan, Connor, and Levi head to Rolleston, Ashburton, and Fairlie. On Sunday they're in Queenstown, before Peter Williams boards the "Mobile Campaign HQ" for the Alexandra–Wanaka–Gore–Balclutha–Invercargill legs. (Shout out to our friends at Groundswell who have put together the town-hall style meetings with Peter Williams!)
I'll be taking Jordan's place in the campervan for the Invercargill–Wellington leg, and I couldn't be more excited.
Mahuta formally introduces Three Waters bill to Parliament
Our latest campaign push couldn't be more timely. Yesterday, Nanaia Mahuta formally introduced to Parliament the core Three Waters legislation – the euphemistically-named "Water Services Entities Bill".
Far from pulling back, the legislation actually doubles down on co-governance (more on that next week – it's technical, and quite sneaky). The other surprise is that yet another layer of bureaucracy has been added to the already convoluted governance structure. New "regional advisory panels" will sit below the co-governed Representation Groups. And the new advisory panels are themselves co-governed! We're beginning to understand what Mahuta meant when she said her reforms would create jobs...
Now that the Bill has been introduced, it could pass its first reading and be referred to Select Committee as early as next week. Public submissions are likely to open soon after.
We're calling on the Select Committee to take its consultation on the road and hear from communities directly affected, face-to-face, across the country. If your humble Taxpayers' Union can do it, so can the MPs!
Doing the media's job: we've released scientific polling on Three Waters
As part of the regular scientific polling we commission from Curia Market Research, we asked New Zealanders whether water entities should be directly accountable to voters.
Seventy-six percent agreed that voters should have the power to vote out water service providers who fail to deliver good value.
Of course, Nanaia Mahuta's Three Waters regime would run roughshod over local accountability. The boards of the new water monopolies would be insulated from accountability by layer upon layer of-co-governed bureaucracy.
Have we already won the war?
Ideally, our efforts will force the Government to u-turn on Mahuta's proposals.
But if they force the legislation through, there's still a path to victory: Three Waters could do so much political damage that next year could see a change in Government, and Three Waters repealed.
So this is a major victory for our campaign:
Christopher Luxon is only making this promise because New Zealanders like you have stood up and shouted from the rooftops that local democratic control matters, and Three Waters cannot stand.
An update on the legal challenge
You may be aware that we are financially supporting the Water Users' Group's judicial review against Nania Mahuta's claims that co-governance is necessary for Three Waters for the Crown to comply with the Treaty. If you're one of the thousands of New Zealanders who've chipped in to the legal fund, thank you.
We have an update. This is from Stephen Franks, one of the lawyers leading the court challenge:
On Thursday 4 August, we are headed to the High Court. This interlocutory hearing is to argue for the Crown to release the advice the Minister relied upon to say co-governance is required for Three Waters.
You may recall that Crown released Cabinet Papers last year that disclosed some of this information. And then tried to get us to delete it once they realised that we had used the information in our Statement of Claim.
The Crown is now arguing that they could disclose it, but only to our lawyers. You won't get to see it. We don't think that is right. If they are going to give co-governance over $185 billion, we think you should be able to see the reasoning (if there is any).
This won't be our only day in court. We still have the substantive argument to go - that co-governance is not required as part of the Three Waters scheme. We don't have a date for this hearing yet. But our legal team have made an application to the court to get this dealt with as soon as possible.
If you want to understand more about the background on this case (or read the Statement of Claim), check out the Litigation FAQs here.
You funded a ballet called 'The Sl*tcracker'
In light of Budget 2022 throwing even more money at arts grants, we decided to take another one of our regular looks at where this money ends up.
This time our Researcher, Levi, examined the "Creative Communities" grants funded by Creative NZ and doled out by local councils.
Here is a small sample, in this case all projects in Wellington:
I wish we were making this up: taxpayers are forking out for escort exhibitions, 'dismantling e-waste for fun', pictionary, queer and trans drawing classes, interpretive dance, music courses for 'womxn and femmes', a ballet called 'The Sl*tcracker', and a literal clown show.
Law change for Fonterra could jack up prices and suffocate competition
Have you seen the price of cheese lately? Squeezed households may be alarmed to learn that the Government is considering a proposal that could send prices further into the stratosphere – and cripple our economy at the same time.
COVID “service recognition” awards cost $5 million
We often protest 'tokenistic' Government initiatives, but this time it’s literal. A select group of individuals deemed by the bureaucracy to have made a special contribution to the COVID-19 response will be given an expensive pat on the back by the Prime Minister’s department.
The Prime Minister has said that the awards will take the form of lapel pins. So how is this costing $5 million? How many lapel pins are they buying?? Of course, the real cost will be the bureaucratic administration of the awards, and the catered ceremonies.
The first group up for awards is apparently MIQ workers. But we already have a way of recognising the efforts of public sector workers: we pay them competitive salaries. As far as we can tell, no MIQ staff are asking for a glorified participation award.
This newsletter is getting long...
Finally, a few important taxpayer stories for weekend reading:
NZ loses top score for budget transparency (BusinessDesk)
And in case you somehow missed it... Co-Governance: the Crown and the Mahuta Dynasty (The Platform)
Have a great long weekend,
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