“Hipkins and McAnulty can only hope the mainstream media remains largely dozy, lazy and uninformed on the role of Te Mana o te Wai statements until the election. For if the general public fully grasp that Maori will be given extensive — and exclusive — rights to direct how water is managed at a local level, the public mood will change from sour to downright septic. In short order, Hipkins’ hopes of re-election will be sunk by a wave of revulsion at such blatantly undemocratic and divisive race-based policy.”
– Journalist Graham Adams, 7 April 2023
Back in February, New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins attempted to distance himself from the Ardern administration by announcing he would put a match to unpopular policies. Claiming Labour had tried to do “too much, too fast”, he said he was refocusing priorities to put the cost-of-living front and centre of a new direction.
When asked whether the widely despised Three Waters would get the chop, he ruled out scrapping the scheme, but admitted the “need for reform was unquestionable” and that ‘co-governance’ would be looked at.
By mid-March, when the second policy bonfire was announced, the Prime Minister confirmed the new Minister of Local Government Kieran McAnulty was still discussing the future of Three Waters with councils and Maori.
Last week, we learnt the results of those discussions: While Three Waters has a new name and the number of entities has been increased from 4 to 10 to enable each council to have representation on their Regional Groups, the anti-democratic ‘co-governance’ provisions remain firmly in place.
Former MP Tuku Morgan, the Tainui chair appointed by Nanaia Mahuta to lead the northern Three Waters iwi body, told the Herald that when they met Kieran McAnulty and his delegation of Maori Ministers – Willie Jackson, Kiri Allan and Kelvin Davis – to discuss the future of Three Waters, they had three bottom lines they would not budge on: “There were three issues we wanted the Crown to hold fast on. And they have delivered.”
Their first demand was for ‘co-governance boards’ to be renamed ‘50/50 Partnership Boards’: “The Partnership Board better characterises the direction we want to head to as those boards have their foundation in Te Tiriti o Waitangi… When we get 10 boards, we will have a greater voice, so from that point of view, we are euphoric – we are happy with the result.”
The second demand was for the structure of entity A – which in effect requires Auckland to subsidise the three Northland councils – to remain unchanged: “The basis of our support is that… remote iwi and hapu who have been left off the council priorities will get looked after.”
And their third demand was to retain “Te Mana o te Wai” statements – the mechanism by which Maori will gain control of water – so nothing will “in any way shape or form, overshadow, minimise, or compromise the standing of Te Mana o te Wai being provided by iwi and hapu.”
Tuku Morgan was “over the moon” that the Ministers agreed to their demands: “Those are the three points we debated and we got what we wanted. I am very, very happy.”
It certainly seems that iwi leaders are the ones calling the shots – with Chris Hipkins and his Cabinet well and truly under their thumb.
You only need to look at iwi demands over Entity A to see what the future holds. Auckland has the economies of scale to stand alone and deliver affordable water services to its 1.6 million population. And while that’s what Aucklanders want, it’s not what iwi wants. So, thanks to co-governance Aucklanders will be forced to forever subsidise Northland’s iwi and hapu – along with everyone else who lives in the region.
That’s not democracy. The ‘voice of the people’ no longer seems to matter to Labour. All that now matters to them, is the voice of ‘Maori’.
Let’s not allow Labour’s reassurances over their water reforms to confuse reality.
The co-governance arrangements that were originally proposed in Three Waters have not changed. Renaming them as “50/50 partnerships” alters nothing.
However, the Prime Minister is now clearly so concerned at the growing public backlash to co-governance being retained, that, as the Herald reported, he’s now trying to deny it ever existed in Three Waters: “Prime Minister Chris Hipkins actually denied that this model was co-governance. Saying Three Waters does not and never has included co-governance pointing out that there is no requirement for the entity boards to be co-governed – only the group the boards report to is split 50-50… ‘So let’s be clear about this. It’s not co-governance and it wasn’t co-governance. Let’s be clear about co-governance – co-governance as it’s traditionally understood, was taken off the table in Three Waters reform process some time ago. There was an early discussion around whether a full co-governance model should be adopted here and ultimately, the government decided not to do that,’ Hipkins said.”
The problem for Chippy is that neither his own Ministers nor state-funded media believe his obfuscation.
In June last year Radio NZ reported: “Nanaia Mahuta told RNZ there were two reasons behind the co-governance aspects, which guarantee mana whenua equal representation with councils on an oversight group. ‘Part of it is because the Crown must uphold its Treaty obligations…The other thing is that several treaty settlements that have been reached also have obligations that are carried through in terms of the relationship with their waterways. And so it was important to ensure that Te Mana o te Wai aspirations could be achieved through this reform programme as well.’”
And just last week TVNZ reported: “McAnulty said that the shake-up retained a co-governance component. ‘There’s a good reason for that – we signed a Treaty. The Treaty recognises Maori have special rights in water in particular. That is something that’s been tested in the courts and found to be part of New Zealand law. When I was putting forward alternatives for Cabinet to consider, I wasn’t willing to change that because I think it’s the right thing to do.’”
While Minister McAnulty was correct to call the co-governance arrangements ‘co-governance’, he was well astray on the reasons for having co-governance.
This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator former Judge and Law Lecturer Anthony Willy outlines the legal ‘ownership’ status of freshwater:
“At common law land including the land underneath water was regarded as a commodity like any other that could be owned and transacted. Water was never regarded by the common law as a commodity in that sense. The Courts held that a landowner had no right to the ownership of water which either flows through, or percolates within that land. In this way the courts recognised that water like air is not only vital to the survival of all species on the planet but is something in which humanity has no hand in creating. It therefore, like air, occupies a unique status in the eyes of the common law – it cannot be owned by anybody.”
Further, lawyer and former National MP Graeme Reeves sets the record straight regarding claims the Courts have decided that Maori have legal rights to water: “The first thing to consider is that reports produced by the Waitangi Tribunal are not decisions made by a Court… The most authoritative Court case to have considered the ownership of water is the Supreme Court decision between the New Zealand Maori Council and the Attorney-General delivered on 27 February 2013… The appellants lost the appeal which included their claim that they owned the water in the Waikato River.”
While Minister McAnulty has admitted 50:50 co-governance is undemocratic, he justifies it by claiming, “There are provisions in our laws around the Treaty that aren’t democratic. There are provisions that we have in this country that wouldn’t stand up to a purely academic democratic framework. But that’s not how we work in New Zealand. We recognise that this country was founded on a Treaty that gives Maori particular rights and interests in certain things.”
So, there we have it – Labour’s reinvention of democracy ignores the fundamental principle of one-person, one-vote and instead kowtows to Maori supremacists, who have reinterpreted the Treaty to gain political influence and control of public resources.
As if tribal control of the governance of the water entities is not bad enough, the real power of Labour’s water reforms rests with Te Mana o Te Wai Statements. Found in Part 4 of the Water Services EntitiesAct, these statements, which can only be issued by iwi and hapu, can force the boards running the ten water entities to do virtually anything they want.
The former Mayor of Kaipara, Dr Jason Smith, appointed to the Three Waters Working Group by Nania Mahuta to help thrash out the detail of the proposed legislation, says it is totally unacceptable what iwi intended when they recommended the inclusion of these statements in the legislation:
“Te Mana o Te Wai Statements are in a league of their own within the Three Waters reforms, far removed from the already controversial co-governance arrangements… Te Mana o Te Wai Statements are legislated to cover every square centimetre of all the land, including under every home, farm or place of business as well as many kilometres out to sea. Simple and powerful, whatever these Statements contain must be put into effect, no questions asked. There is no co-governance in the simple truth Maori only may write Te Mana o Te Wai Statements – there is nothing ‘co’ about this, it’s a different type of constitutional arrangement from anything we’ve seen before.”
Totalitarian tribal control of water is, of course, a key goal of He Puapua, which clearly continues to be rolled out under Chis Hipkins.
So, what are the other changes the Prime Minister has made to Three Waters?
The policy will now be called “Affordable Water Reform”, despite the fact that it is less affordable than its predecessor. The PM however, is no doubt hoping to imprint in the mind of voters that the only thing that matters is that their policy will deliver cheaper water in the future – conveniently downplaying the tribal rule aspects.
But the fact is, the modelling purporting to produce affordable water, has been roundly discredited. Quite simply, the projected savings in thirty years’ time are imaginary.
No sane analysts would claim any degree of certainty when projecting 30 years into the future, and few would be bold enough to suggest the projections justify a major upheaval of New Zealand’s entire water management system.
What has also been conveniently supressed by Labour – and indeed by the mainstream media – is the fact that instead of carrying the financial risk of its own dodgy scheme, the Labour Government, through legislation that is now in front of Parliament, is forcing ratepayers to underwrite the massive borrowing that the water entities will undertake, even though they will have no control over them.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta launched their revamped Three Waters scheme after winning a majority in the 2020 election, they claimed the reforms were necessary to save lives. They alleged the country had such poor quality water that 34,000 New Zealanders a year were getting sick.
And even though the Ministry of Health’s annual water quality audits showed excellent results – as did the regular surveillance reports from the ESR – no journalists held the Prime Minister and Local Government Minister to account for their misleading claims.
Back then, the lies were about water quality. Now they are about affordability.
In reality, Three Waters was always a trojan horse used by Jacinda Ardern to hide the fact that Labour was passing control of water to Maori.
Since Chris Hipkins’ Affordable Water Reform does not change that, Maori control of freshwater is set to become a major election issue.
And the choice is now clear: if you don’t support Maori being given the power to control water in New Zealand – through what will become the greatest transfer of wealth to iwi ever – don’t vote for Labour, the Greens, or the Maori Party in October!
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Dr Muriel Newman established the New Zealand Centre for Political Research as a public policy think tank in 2005 after nine years as a Member of Parliament. The NZCPR website is HERE. We also run this Breaking Views Blog and our NZCPR Facebook Group HERE.
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