Wednesday, December 14, 2022

John McDonald: All I want for Christmas is a new Local Government Minister

All I want for Christmas is a new Local Government Minister. Because, as far as I’m concerned, Nanaia Mahuta has blown it.

And I don’t think I can believe a word she says anymore. I suspect some of her government colleagues might be starting to feel the same.

It’s all to do with revelations that she continued to consider entrenching part of the Three Waters legislation despite Cabinet ruling it out back in May. More than six months ago.

Three Waters, of course, being stormwater, wastewater and drinking water which, at the moment, local councils are responsible for.

But the Government thinks they aren’t up to the job and wants to set-up four new water authorities to take over. Which all goes back to 2016 when the water supply in Havelock North got contaminated and four people died and about 5000 people became unwell.

So the Government is going all one-size-fits-all on it, and is taking control of Three Waters - stormwater, wastewater and drinking water - away from every council in the country.

Last week, the legislation required to establish these new water authorities passed its third reading in Parliament, meaning the coast is clear for the Government to press on with the Three Waters reforms.

There are other bills still to be passed but the one that went through last week means we are on the way to having four new authorities in charge of stormwater, wastewater and drinking water around the country.

The two other bills yet to go through Parliament are a given because the Government has a majority in the House and can pretty much do what it likes.

So right up until the 11th hour last week, the Water Services Entities Bill included an entrenchment clause which was, apparently, put in at the last minute at the request of the Green Party.

What the entrenchment thing was meant to do was ensure there couldn’t be any privatisation of water services in the future, unless 60 percent of MPs supported it.

But there was a huge outcry from constitution experts because this sort of thing normally only applies to things like the voting age, not government policy.

And so when that all happened, the Government said ‘ooh, that was a mistake, that shouldn’t have been in there. We’ll take it out’.

I remember hearing Aysha Verrell saying on Newstalk ZB that Cabinet was taking collective responsibility and they were all moving on and there was nothing to see here.

Collective responsibility it would seem for what their Cabinet colleague - Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta - has been up to, which has prompted calls for her resignation.

Here’s what National’s Chris Bishop said on Newstalk ZB this morning: “Nanaia Mahuta has been donkey deep in cahoots with the Greens on this and, of course, that is in complete defiance of what the Cabinet had already agreed.”

And Bishop is saying she can’t get away with going behind the backs of her Cabinet colleagues for going into cahoots with Green Party MP Eugenie Sage on this entrenchment thing.

The same Eugenie Sage who I had thought, on the basis of what the Government’s been saying over the past week or so, only had this entrenchment idea at the last minute and somehow got it added in to the legislation at the last minute.

But not so - as we are learning today. Because it seems that Mahuta and Sage were looking into the entrenchment thing for about a month before the bill went through Parliament. And despite Cabinet ruling it out more than six months ago.

Mahuta even had government officials providing advice on it - she was going the whole nine yards. Which makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what these government officials must have been thinking when they heard the Government banging on about this entrenchment thing being a last minute mistake.

It beggars belief that the Government thought it could get away with such a cock and bull story. Well it got away with it for a few days - but it’s all out in the open now.

Mahuta has been found out, and she has to resign. I’ve said previously that I think she’s the worst Foreign Minister we’ve ever had. She can now add Local Government to her list of non-achievements.

John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. This article was first published HERE

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