Thursday, December 8, 2022

Point of Order: Mahuta’s Three Waters bill flows through the third reading stage.....

......but only Labour MPs voted in support of it

The most triumphal statement posted on the Beehive website today came from Nanaia Mahuta, to bray about the Water Services Entities Bill passing its third reading in Parliament.

The Bill was supported only by Labour MPs, but they have enough numbers in Parliament to turn it into law regardless of the weight of public opposition and the objections of other political parties in the House of Representatives.

As Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta issued a statement to note that this is the first of three bills intended to ensure affordable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services is provided to New Zealanders “now and into the future

The Government has laid foundations for safe and affordable water services with the Water Services Entities Bill passing its third reading in Parliament.

The Bill provides for the transfer of the existing three waters workforce and expertise from local authorities to four new non-profit, publicly owned water services entities.

It directs those entities to act in the best interests of present and future households and consumers by:
  • delivering water services and infrastructure efficiently and cost effectively
  • protecting public health and the environment
  • supporting and enabling new housing and urban development
  • operating with sound business practices
  • delivering water services that are resilient to the effects of climate change and natural hazards.
Significantly, the contentious concept of “co-governance” was missing from Mahuta’s press statement.

It has not been removed from the legislation, but Mahuta will be only too aware of how divisive it is, and so today she played the cost-of-living card to try to win popular support:

“In order to keep a lid on rate rises and better protect New Zealanders from rising water costs, we must act now to upgrade our national water infrastructure,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

“The passage of today’s Bill is an important step in addressing a fundamental cost of living issue that will affect all New Zealanders for decades to come if left unfixed.

“Everyone agrees that change is needed to ensure that communities have safe, reliable drinking water at an affordable price. By sticking with the status quo, independent research shows households are facing water costs of up to $9,000 per year and more failures of basic water services.

“We are already seeing what is at stake with over 34,000 New Zealanders getting sick from drinking water each year.”

That’s a lot of people being sickened by drinking water. Maybe we would be safer if we switched to booze until Three Waters have ensured our water is safe (although we wonder where the sickness figures came from).

This was not Mahuta’s only contribution to the Beehive website today.

A speech she delivered as Minister of Foreign Affairs was posted, too –

Locally led development is at the heart of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Pacific Resilience Approach. We are committed to supporting the development priorities of our Pacific partner countries, and wherever feasible, delivering our support through local actors – civil society and NGOs.

This was a speech delivered to the Aotearoa New Zealand International Development Studies Network, which describes itself as “ an interface amongst people and organisations working in or researching international development”.

The speech contained no examples (that we could find in a quick reading) of Mahuta bridling against Cabinet decisions. We stand to be corrected by our readers, if they can find what we missed.

Meanwhile her colleagues were –

Minister of Internal Affairs, Jan Tinetti is today announcing changes to the board members of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) to assist in improved performance from the Crown Entity.

An independent review of FENZ found it has fallen short in improving its workplace culture.

The review, led by Belinda Clark QSO, was commissioned following a damning 2019 review by Judge Coral Shaw which found the organisation had a culture of bullying and harassment as well as unacceptable levels of homophobia, sexism and racism.

The two new FENZ Board members are Ruth Dyson, a former Labour minister, as Deputy Chair, and Belinda Clark. Dyson and Clark will be in place for an initial period of 12 months.

Jan Tinetti said the review of FENZ’s Workplace Culture and Complaint Handling Practices raised complex and challenging issues for FENZ to address. Issues also arise in a context of other upcoming challenges such as an ambitious asset investment programme, implementing a new Collective Employment Agreement, and re-establishing positive relationships following protracted and difficult bargaining.

The Government has updated the Essential Freshwater 2020 regulations to support their effective implementation, and in response to consultation feedback.

The Government’s flagship insulation and heating programme, Warmer Kiwi Homes, has passed 100,000 installations of insulation and efficient heaters, making homes warmer and healthier.

The Government will introduce a ‘circuit-breaker’ response aimed at quickly addressing the repeat offending of a small group of children and young people, Minister for Children Kelvin Davis, Minister of Police Chris Hipkins and Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni announced today.

The Government is welcoming news that more important medicines are to be publicly funded, thanks to a major increase in the budget of the national medicines-buying agency Pharmac.

The achievements of a group of young people who have been in care or involved in the youth justice system have been recognised at the Oranga Tamariki Prime Minister Awards.

While Point of Order was checking on statements recorded on the Beehive website, other statements were flowing into our office email in-tray.

From the National Party –
Three Waters’ days are already numbered, with the remaining support for the controversial reforms slipping away, National Party Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts said.

“Despite the overwhelming opposition from communities, local government, and every other party in Parliament, Labour has steamrolled ahead with their broken Three Waters asset grab, which passed its final reading in Parliament today.

“What little support there was outside the Labour Party vanished today, with the Green Party and Te Pāti Māori voting against the Bill, having previously supported it.

“Labour is now the only party in the House that backs these reforms and have only been able to ram it through because of their absolute majority.”

National will repeal and replace this broken model, replacing it with “sustainable solutions that fix what’s broken, while keeping assets in local hands.”

ACT similarly said any Government which it is a part of will repeal Three Waters.

“Labour believes it has gotten away with stealing local assets, but any Government ACT is a part of will repeal Three Waters”, says ACT’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Court.

Court agreed the current water-services system is not up to scratch,

“but the Government’s Three Waters reforms are not the answer. Taking control of water assets away from councils is wrong. Moving water assets from one government body to another is a recipe for more bureaucracy and less local input.

“The worst aspect of the reforms is divisive co-government. It’s totally inappropriate to give iwi a seat at the table just because of who their ancestors were. All New Zealanders want clean and safe water, not just iwi.”

There were real problems with drinking water quality in some communities, failing wastewater networks and sewage overflows into rivers and onto beaches, Court agreed.

But none of those problems were solved by trying to force co-government structures on to a future three waters delivery model.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well there you have it. The rort is now law. To take a page from tikanga, or is it the myopic, stone age te ao Maori, I'm thinking - Utu. Anyone else share the view?