New Three Waters recommendations are an unholy mess
When the Government announced last year it would delay the Three Waters legislation, they appointed an “independent” Working Group to provide recommendations on ways to make the legislation more palatable for local councils. At the time, we called it out as anything but independent. The Working Group itself was 50/50 co-governed, and of the Mayors appointed to represent the interests of local government it was stacked in favour of the very few who were supporting the Government’s proposals.
Today the Working Group has released its recommendations.
Under the recommendations, councils would still not have anything close to proportionate representation on the four “Regional Representation Groups” that appoint the selection panel that appoints the board members for the new entities. For example, Auckland Council would have just four of 14 seats for the northern group, despite having 90 percent of the region’s population and contributing the lion's share of the assets.
As we predicted, the Working Group has backed Nanaia Mahuta’s co-governance model that will see half the seats for each region held by iwi/hapū members, giving iwi an effective veto right over every major decision.
Here are some of the key recommendations:
⚠️ Fresh off the back of the infamous $4 million “Better Water” television ad campaign, the Working Group wants another new public communications campaign to explain “need for change” to New Zealanders.
⚠️ Councils would now hold shares in the new water entities. This is clearly an attempt to ward off accusations that Three Waters is an asset grab. But it’s yet another deceit: regardless of their shareholdings, councils (and therefore ratepayers) will still be stripped of all the crucial rights of control that define ownership. Councils won’t be allowed to receive a return from the water entities, yet that is specifically allowed for Mana Whenua groups. In short, the “ownership” of shares will be meaningless.
⚠️ Further, the Working Group has suggested adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to the scheme, in the form of new “sub-regional” groups representing smaller councils and iwi. This would mean five layers of bureaucracy in total separate ratepayers from water services: councillors, the co-governed sub-regional representative group, the co-governed Regional Representative Group, the Selection Panel, and the water entity board.
⚠️ The Working Group also wants to establish a new Water Services Ombudsman, with a “tikanga-based dispute resolution process”. And they have demanded a new policy consultation process between the Crown and its Treaty partners, separate from public consultation.
The full set of 47 recommendations from the Working Group can be found at the bottom this article.
Together, these ideas intensify the absurd complexity of the scheme. The whole thing stinks of “jobs for the boys” that will ultimately cost ratepayers.
Nanaia Mahuta and her Cabinet colleagues will now “consider” the recommendations before unveiling the legislation that will be put before Parliament. From our perspective, there is nothing to consider: Three Waters cannot be salvaged.
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