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Calls for halt to Three Waters info campaign

Local Government NZ president, and former Tauranga Council mayor, Stuart Crosby.

The Government has made a hash of explaining its plan to reform water services, according to the organisation that represents councils around the country.

Local Government NZ president, and former Tauranga Council mayor, Stuart Crosby has updated councils on the reaction to the proposed reforms in a plain-speaking letter that appeared on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting of the West Coast Regional Council.

LGNZ's national council is hearing from councils around the country that the number and pace of reforms are placing them under serious pressure, says Crosby.

"Councils are also being put in the unwelcome position of explaining central government policy to their communities, sometimes in the absence of public-facing detail from the Government, especially in three waters."

There is a sense that local democracy is being undermined and LGNZ has pushed back on this.

Under the proposed reforms, councils would hand over their drinking water, stormwater and a sewerage systems to be run by large publicly-owned entities — along with any associated debt.

The government says the new water authorities will have the borrowing power and efficiencies of scale that councils lack, to replace ageing pipes and get water services up to standard in an affordable way.

But the reforms are coming at the same time as new freshwater and biodiversity regulations, RMA reform and a looming review of the future of local government.

"There is a sense that ... everything's coming at us at once," says Crosby.

"This has been exacerbated by a poorly-pitched public information campaign, which LGNZ has had tough conversations about with both DIA and the Minister."

Crosby has asked the Prime Minister to cease the current public Three Waters campaign or reset it on a 'no blame' basis and clear information package.

"I am hearing two messages from (councils) in relation to the pressure on the sector right now around the three waters reform.

"Some are asking for reform to be made mandatory as soon as possible; some are asking for more time and a pause "

West Coast councils, with the exception of Buller, are among the majority of South Island councils who want the reforms paused.

Ideally, the Future for Local Government review should have come first, and the other policy reforms followed, says Crosby.

"We were reminded that we, as a sector, have pushed for various reforms for our sustainability — that the Future for Local Government review only came about because we asked for it.

"Change coming at us all at once does feel pressured, as councils grapple with everyday work and Covid on top of that, but National Council's role is to focus on the long term and consider the best interests of the sector overall.

"It was critical to use councils' collective knowledge to work in partnership with the Government, retain influence and show that councils could tackle the hard issues," says Crosby.

"There is a lot at stake for all New Zealanders. This request for more time... has been shared with the Minister of Local Government and Prime Minister and both wish to engage with their colleagues on the issues we have raised and engage further with LGNZ."

The heads of agreement that the Government and LGNZ have signed to work in partnership has not sat well with some councils, says Crosby.

While this may be, he says was a strong and positive way to engage with the Government.

"We have not had this direct relationship in a formal sense before. As an example, in the three waters space, we are currently working on what might be possible to better reflect the sector's concerns. "Common objections raised by many councils have been about how the new regional water authorities would be governed and connected to local councils and communities.

"If we remain credible, we have an opportunity to exert influence by promoting solutions that work for local government and our communities — and we all know the status quo isn't viable longer term.

"We must stay united — and use our unique platform — or the genuine opportunity to influence the reforms for the best interest of our communities will be diminished."

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@ caveman

Posted on 20-09-2021 10:39 | By Kancho

It’s a possibility in that the power supply and reticulation was reformed and some of the shares are overseas. The majority still in NZ hands but share holders here and overseas expect and get returns. So yep the price went up , we have a shortage supply so supply and demand will apply for further rises. Plugging vehicles will come at great cost to consumers to increase the power and infrastructure to build more capacity. I note the announcement lower power user special rate will be phased out in five years. Once the government has control it’s a monopoly and pricing will undoubtedly go up to produce a revenue stream for government. It fits with their " it’s not a tax" it’s levy. No more taxes yeah right.

In simple terms -

Posted on 20-09-2021 00:02 | By The Caveman

Three Waters is a straight out Labour Party "want" to take over all of the water assets of all of the council ratepayers in NEW ZEALAND!!! And once the "ownership is the so called "Three Waters", it will be SOLD OFF to private interests!!! Ratepayers will wind up paying PROFITS to the private owners for what they once owned.

Scottish Model Failure

Posted on 17-09-2021 16:33 | By

My main beef with 3 Waters is the Scottish model they have chosen. When you look at the nuts and bolts of if it, it really has little to compare with New Zealand. The biggest beef is that this model, which this government is touting, has proved to be a massive failure in Scotland with outcomes far worse than when the local government ran it. With Labours track record on Kiwibuild how can anyone put any faith in this even remotely working? Labour is planning on borrowing over $200 Billion. I, and many others, can only see that this could end up bankrupting this country and turn us into another South American country where corruption and scandal will be the news of the day.

Worse

Posted on 17-09-2021 16:06 | By Kancho

It’s undemocratic to appoint by race that is in this proposal. Selection of directors should be on merit not race. This is nonsense that a natural resource should be owned as Maori have claimed in the past, water is not it falls from the skies. However the infrastructure to treat and distribute is owned by ratepayers.

Scottish Model Failure

Posted on 17-09-2021 11:00 | By

My main beef with 3 Waters is the Scottish model they have chosen. When you look at the nuts and bolts of if it, it really has little to compare with New Zealand. The biggest beef is that this model, which this government is touting, has proved to be a massive failure in Scotland with outcomes far worse than when the local government ran it. With Labours track record on Kiwibuild how can anyone put any faith in this even remotely working? Labour is planning on borrowing over $200 Billion. I, and many others, can only see that this could end up bankrupting this country and turn us into another South American country where corruption and scandal will be the news of the day.

Tom Ranger

Posted on 17-09-2021 09:43 | By

Nice in theory (Possibly). But I’m quite confident in this statement. Another bloated govt dept is on the horizon and also claim to have balanced councils books by removing water related debt from council and moving it elsewhere..The gummit did the same thing in term one regarding social housing debt. Moved it out of their own budgets and allowed Housing NZ (A separate entity) to borrow money, paying a higher rate than the govt would have otherwise for loans. These types of deals are often Camouflage, hiding poor economics within.

GST

Posted on 16-09-2021 18:26 | By Johnney

Just think of the millions of GST paid to central government which end up in their coffers so they fan dangle a carrot pretending to give our money back. Tell central government to get stuffed. Big is not better. Auckland super city is a prime example that bigger means bigger costs.

Brainwashing

Posted on 16-09-2021 16:42 | By

Goebbels said that if you repeat a lie enough times, the population will start believing the lie as fact. I see this happening with the governments ad campaign. We are being brainwashed with the information that all our water is noxious, and that the only solution is for the government to take over control of the water facilities throughout the country. Granted, that may be the case in some locations. Let the government help out those cases where the water supply and treatment needs to be improved. Focus on the problem areas. But, in those municipalities where they have done and are doing their job well, leave well alone! Do not fix a problem where it does not exist! Otherwise, all we are seeing is creeping nationisation under the pretence of doing the country a service. See it for what it is - control by any means.

Good idea

Posted on 16-09-2021 12:11 | By Kancho

I agree it all feels like a bulldozer and local interest of ratepayers and the legislative constrictions on local government needs work first. Ratepayers are overburdened to provide funding but surely our taxation and government support would fix a lot. I would hope the Three Water childish cartoons on TV ceased immediately. Fluffy meaningless wishlist with no substance. The DHBs are also in government sights so one thing at a time. Our health system needs a lot more support and beefing up in covid times that need more contingency planning . Stuart will be very aware of Power supply reform that pushed up prices and lowered maintenance on the supply. The National grid is struggling and plugging vehicles will increase the vulnerability. Don’t trust the government to bring about so called reform, they have no track record on delivery.

water

Posted on 16-09-2021 11:46 | By dumbkof2

dosn’t matter what you say or do, mahuta and her govt have stated that they want four waters

Why is

Posted on 16-09-2021 11:24 | By Accountable

Everybody in these Council organisations ignoring the real issue that the majority of people are concerned about and that is the 50% ownership of the three waters by Maori? It personally doesn’t worry me if Government own and control these entities but it does worry me when a small group of people are given the rights to one of the main essentials of life and that is the water. This is and must stay in the possession of every New Zealander from now into eternity.

Hmmm

Posted on 16-09-2021 10:42 | By

No mention of the proposed makeup of the governing bodies or the fact that a very good proportion of the country relies on septic tanks and rainwater collection. Are we going to be stalling recognizable issues in high volime ratepayer areas to subsidise the installation of resources into small residential areas at the whim of one or two well connected backcountry residents. The idea is for local government rates to be used in the location where rates are collected and not a two hour drive away where people have a bach or to water the cash crops.