The new Auckland mayor has told his council and Auckland’s water company to stop doing any more work on the Government's Three Waters reforms and I think other councils should do the same.
They should all do what Auckland is doing and tell the Government they’re not going to waste anymore time, effort and money on Three Waters.
The reforms haven’t been passed by Parliament and, after the results of the recent local body elections - which are, generally, being portrayed as a shift away from the left - he doesn’t see anything happening with Three Waters before next year’s general election.
So he's written to the head of the council’s water agency, Watercare, telling them to stop all work on Three Waters. He wants any staff at Council headquarters who have been working on Three Waters to be told to stop as well.
As he put it in a statement last night, he went to 300 events during his election campaign and he didn’t see or hear any support for Three Waters - and he promised to stop it happening, and this is first move.
I think it’s a brilliant move. And I think other councils should all do the same.
I was looking at a statement the Christchurch City Council put out last year after the Government announced that despite all the opposition from local councils, it was going to press-on with the reforms anyway.
And I couldn’t help thinking when I was looking at the council statement again that it had a real victim feel to it. “The Government told us lies. We feel betrayed.”'
Because the Government knows it can’t make the Three Waters reforms a reality on its own and it needs the councils to do a lot of its donkey work. And that’s exactly what’s been happening. Council staff up and down the country beavering away.
But in Auckland, Mayor Wayne Brown has called time on it and has said no more.
He’s also said that any money saved by not having staff diverted from their normal jobs and doing all the Three Waters stuff should be passed on to ratepayers.
I asked Phil Mauger on his first day as Christchurch mayor how he was going to make sure Christchurch was front-and-centre in the Government’s thinking when it was obvious that Wayne Brown was going to be telling the Government a thing or two and pushing Auckland’s case big time.
Remember one of Brown’s first and only comments to media after he won the election was that he was going to make sure the Government understood that his council didn’t want things forced on it, and that he’d be making sure the Government didn’t get in the way of what his council wanted to do.
Wellington’s job is to listen and not impose ideological schemes like Three Waters on a city that doesn’t want them. That’s what Wayne Brown said.
And when I asked Phil Mauger about that, he indicated that he was going to be a bit more diplomatic. But I think that would be a major mistake - which is why I think he needs to do what Wayne Brown did yesterday and pull the plug on council staff doing anymore work for the Government on the Three Waters reforms.
Because, as far as I’m concerned, councils can bang on about Three Waters but, as long as they continue to have staff doing the work that needs to be done to make the reforms a reality, they will be guilty of selling their souls.
Wayne Brown’s move is very clever. It’s a noisy move - as we’ve come to expect from Wayne Brown. But, on this occasion, I think the noise is a good thing.
Because if you don’t want Three Waters to happen, why on earth would you continue pouring council staff and time - not to mention ratepayer money - into helping the Government make it a reality? That is just nuts.
John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. This article was first published HERE