Sunday, August 14, 2022

Stuart Smith: National’s Response to Three Waters

The Three Waters debate is heating up as the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, or FEC as it is known, begins to hear evidence on the Water Services Bill. The Three Waters legislation will enable the establishment of four Water Services Entities with convoluted co-governance structures that will take control of rate payer owned assets. FEC received 88,324 submissions which had to be hard copies because the government used their majority to stipulate this in the hope that it would reduce the number. As a result, select committee staff were forced to wade through mountains of paper to collate submissions.

FEC will only hear a fraction of the submissions and with the government members again using their majority to not allow an extension to hear and consider them is quite frankly undemocratic. It is quite clear that government wants to ram this through in the hope that opposition will melt away.

Unbelievably, executive positions in the water services entities are already being advertised. It seems they are building the gallows for our democracy before the jury has heard the evidence.

I am heartened by progress in court action supported by the Taxpayer’s Union and many members of the public, on the advice that Minister Nanaia Mahuta used to support her recommendation to Cabinet to adopt her Three Waters legislation. The case is quite technical but has the potential to upset the minister’s plans if successful.

The important issue here though is that should this legislation pass, rate payers will lose control of their assets to these water entities, who have at best a tenuous connection to their rightful owners. The governance structures are so convoluted and the entities so large that the local voice has no chance of being heard. The minister has said that councils will still own their three waters assets. But ownership is in essence the right to control the assets, and this will not be possible, so the minister’s words are hollow and an attempt to calm the masses.

The other positive development is the pointed submission from the Auditor General John Ryan on the bill. He stated his concerns that the bill as drafted “could have an adverse effect on public accountability, transparency and organisational performance”. This is very strong language from the Auditor General’s office, who are always measured in their advice.

So, what would National do?

* We would engage with councils and work with them to solve the problems, and meet the standards that the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai, is demanding.
* We would enable and encourage councils to pool resources and capabilities where that makes sense.
* Co-funding partnerships between central government and local councils to fix specific water infrastructure challenges.

The key point is we would work with councils rather than seek to take their assets. We would ensure that ratepayers continue to own and have a direct say in the running of their three waters assets. After all, they paid for them in the first place.

Stuart Smith is a N Z National Party politician who has been a member of the House of Representatives for the Kaikōura electorate since 2014. This article was first published HERE


Ross said...

Yeah, thanks Stuart, but what I'm not hearing from National is any reference to the bogus claims for co-governance. Anything less than an unqualified commitment to removing all requirements for Treaty "principles", "partnership" and co-governance from all laws, statutes and government departments is just clickbait harvesting.

DeeM said...

Absolutely no mention by Stuart of National being opposed to iwi having a 50% representation at all levels throughout the 3 Waters bureaucracy. It's all about asset ownership.

Is this tantamount to supporting co-governance, just not in its present form?
From what I've heard Luxon say, I strongly suspect it is. And National MPs have probably been warned not to stray into this contentious area in case poor Chris has to apologise to another journalist.

Anonymous said...

Well, I would have thought that the first thing on the list would be to repeal the legislation? I think you're right DeeM ‐ nothing I've heard gives me any confidence that this gutless pack of fence‐sitters has a real issue with this co-governance claptrap, and why three waters has anything whatsoever to do with the Treaty. Anyone thinking a vote for National will see a meaningful change is as deluded as those fools that think the reform will result in better, more efficient and cheaper water services. Just another case of smoke and mirrors and speaking with a forked tongue.

Anonymous said...

National needs a Backbone Club... to help it find a backbone.

Alan G said...

Spoiler Alert - White middle class male about to make comment so please prepare to reject out-of-hand.
Sorry Stuart 4/10 at best. If this is National's concept of repealing Three Waters then you've lost my vote. The whole premise of the construct that Labour have put together, including Taumata Arowai, needs to be rejected and repealed. It won't be easy, but if you don't stand up, grow a spine and push back, then I see NZ becoming a far less attractive place to live for the great majority of citizens. Are you so worried about losing support from some that you refuse to stand up for the country???

Anonymous said...

......and me. I don't find National's response at all satisfactory. I don't know whom they are trying to placate. I'm pinning my faith on David Seymour.

Anonymous said...

Right from the start...and i have made this comment many times on SM..Luxon would not mention the 50% ownership model...indeed he is on record as saying anybody against co-Governance is in the 10% fringe lunacy camp so he doesn't pay them any others, I have no confidence in National to do anything/much about the maorification by stealth of NZ.