Nanaia Mahuta and Three Waters
When speaking to Waatea News this week about Three Waters, Nanaia Mahuta said, "some of the opposition seemed to be driven not about economics or effectiveness but racist tropes about co-governance."
The Minister may be right, but in a wrong way. Right that Three Waters is being driven by racist tropes, but wrong about who the racists really are. Perhaps the racists are a small trope of privileged people at the top echelons of Māori society who are using racial privilege to gain control of immense resources for their own benefit.
She went on to say, “People who are often commenting on co-governance really don’t want Maori sitting around the table but this is the new reality of improved decision-making” and “Maori will bring a much-needed emphasis on long-term sustainability to water management".
Let’s unpick her comments.
Where is the evidence that co-governance improves decision-making?
Has that statement of fact ever been fact-checked by the media - by Stuff perhaps who has just published a “fact-checking” article about claims Groundswell had made about the proposed carbon tax? No, not a peep out of Stuff on that one or it seems anyone who signed up for a handout from the Public Interest Journalism Fund which includes in its eligibility criteria a “Commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to Māori as a Te Tiriti partner”.
What can we learn from existing co-governance arrangements? Has decision-making improved? Improved for whom? For Maori only or everyone?
She says, “Some of the opposition seemed to be driven not about economics or effectiveness”.
Minister Mahuta is muddling the fact that co-governance does have implications for the economics and effectiveness of the water entities model. The feasibility model made it very clear that the ambitious efficiency gains are conditional on a private-sector management model being adopted. But the Three Water entities will have anything but a private sector management model. The private sector is not burdened with the layers of co-governance that will obviously affect decision-making.
And what does the Minister actually mean when she says, “Maori will bring a much-needed emphasis on long-term sustainability to water management.”
When she says “long-term sustainability”, is she saying we will not have water in the future without Māori occupying half of the governance seats around the decision-making table?
Presumably, water will still fall from the sky, be gathered in catchments, stored in reservoirs and reticulated to users; which is what local authorities in New Zealand have done since the 1860s without the spiritual guidance of Māori. Perhaps Ms Mahuta can tell us how that will change under a co-governance arrangement. Will the role of Māori be to bless the mythology taniwha “that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, especially in places with dangerous currents or deceptive breakers”?
And what spiritual interest do Maori have in wastewater? According to Water NZ, “In Māori culture, human waste is tapu (unsafe/dirty/bad) and this needs to be converted to noa (safe/clean/good) prior to water contact.”
Don’t all people consider raw sewerage to be repugnant, “tapu”? I was under the impression converting unsafe water into clean water was the very reason why councils treat wastewater. What’s unique about the perspective Maori have, that is not already voiced around the decision-making table?
There may well be unique perspectives that Maori can contribute but let’s hear them, rather than assume they exist.
The PM backs down from a joint press conference with Mayor Brown
The Prime Minister is never one to shy away from a press opportunity unless it happens to be with Auckland’s new mayor.
The Herald reported that the request for a joint stand-up with the media following their meeting this week was rejected by the PM. Why?
Well, that became obvious when the PM decided to hold a press conference after the meeting without Wayne Brown. The PM made a point of saying without Three Waters Aucklanders would, she says, face a rates hike of between 7% and 14%. Had Mayor Brown been present when the PM made her comment he may well have reminded her that Watercare already achieves economies of scale and will become less efficient if it is burdened with having to manage the water services of Northland’s councils, including the Far North which Wayne Brown knows better than anyone, having been the mayor there too. He may also have pointed out to the Prime Minister that the assumed gains are as imaginary as the slime-coughing water pipes shown in their $3.5 million advertising campaign.
Had Wayne Bown been present when she made her comments to the press, it is highly likely he would have torn her to shreds with facts and figures and logic – none of which are strong points for the Prime Minister.
It is therefore hardly surprising the Prime Minister did not want a joint media conference, and instead wanted to take potshots from the safety of her own press conference.
Hamilton West by-election
The Prime Minister was quick to minimise the damage from the unwanted Hamilton West by-election. Newshub reports, Jacinda Ardern saying, Labour is the "underdog" in the Hamilton West electorate in "recent times".
In recent times Labour has actually done well in the electorate. In 2020 Sharma gained 51.9% of the candidate votes (and 52.3% of the party vote), some 6267 ahead of National’s candidate.
If the Tauranga by-election is an indication of the likely result, then we can expect a return to the 2017 and 2014 voting patterns. That would see a reversal of the 2020 result and have the National candidate at around 53% and Labour's candidate at 35%.
Hamilton West is a bellwether seat. The April 2021 electorate Profile states, “On a number of measures Census 2018 shows that the Hamilton West electorate could be described as the average or typical New Zealand electorate: 41.4% of families were a couple with children (compared with 42.4% nationally); 36.1% were affiliated with the Christian faith (compared with 36.5% nationally); 15.0% had a Bachelor’s degree as their highest qualification (compared to 14.6% nationally); and 14.8% had family income between $50,000 and $70,000 (compared to 14.2% nationally).”
The only unknown here is Dr Sharma and what effect he will have on the vote.
Will he attract votes from National or Labour? Will National voters stay loyal to their tribe or back Sharma for having the backbone to stand up to Ardern? Will disgruntled Labour Party voters see Sharma as a more palatable protest vote than National?
My guess is National voters will stay true to their tribe to send a message to Ardern, while unhappy Labour voters will either not vote or vote for Sharma because he is a nice sort of a bloke. What can be said with certainty is Dr Sharma will not have a nice word to say about the Labour Party and he will be saying it when all the media are watching.
Mark the 10th of December in your calendar. It’s likely to be a day to celebrate another step towards the decline of Jacinda Ardern and her toxic brand of modern-day socialism.