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Three Waters it’s time to have YOUR say!



by Andrew Bayly


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The issue of three waters has stirred up widespread public engagement – perhaps more so than many other recent Government reforms. Why? Because it calls into account our system of democracy.

The Government is steamrolling ahead with its three waters agenda, introducing the Water Services Entities Bill to Parliament on 2 June. This is the first of three bills that will change the way New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services are managed and delivered. Currently, these services are mostly provided by local councils, but the bill will instead establish four water services entities which would become responsible for the delivery of water services to a defined geographical area from July 2024. The bill sets out how the water services entities would operate, and how they would be accountable to the public.

By now you should have seen our billboards around the countryside: ‘National will keep your water in local control’ and ‘National will repeal Three Waters’. This sets out our stance on this issue.

There have been many public meetings across New Zealand, reflecting the concerns held by communities and councils. I held a Three Waters Public Meeting on 23 May at Te Kauwhata with National’s spokesperson for local government, Simon Watts. This meeting was very well supported, and there were some excellent comments and very clear directions from those who attended.

Simon explained that while National supports the introduction of Taumata Arowai, the new water services regulator, we are vehemently opposed to the centralisation of control of ratepayer-owned water services under four regional entities.

The move will strip away local control and put distance between communities and decision-makers. Water services will be controlled by mega bureaucracies comprising unelected appointees and officials, who will have little regard for local issues. Smaller local councils won’t even have a seat at the table of the regional entities. Their voices will not be heard, and they will not be represented. The proposed co-governance structure has upset a lot of people. Each regional entity will have two levels of governance: a professional advisory board of people with experience in water services delivery, and a regional representative group split 50:50 between council representatives and those appointed by mana whenua. A co-governance model of public services is something that National will not support. A fundamental part of our democracy is equal voting rights for all New Zealanders. This bill strips these voting rights away.

How the entities will be managed and funded is not well understood and certainly hasn’t been well communicated, even to councils, as attested to by Waikato District Council Deputy Mayor Aksel Bech, who also spoke at our meeting. According to the Government, local councils will still be the ‘owners’ of their assets, but they won’t actually have any control over them. “It’s like saying you own a house, but don’t get to decide where to put the furniture,” Simon explained.

The centralisation of assets and control is a thorn in the side of local councils. To have bureaucrats in Wellington telling local councils how to run their local assets is beyond absurd. Bureaucrats don’t know the communities of New Zealand, but councils and their elected councillors do. Councils feel so strongly about this that three of them – Timaru, Waimakariri, and Whangarei district councils – have taken the Government to court over the reforms, asking for a ruling about the rights of ownership regarding assets that have been paid for over decades by ratepayers. It is undisputed that much of New Zealand’s three waters infrastructure is outdated and neglected. There are substantial challenges ahead. The Government estimates that around $185 billion worth of investment is required in maintenance and replacement over the next 30 years to bring our three waters infrastructure up to modern standards.

No one wants a repeat of the tragic Havelock North drinking water contamination event of 2016. Every New Zealander deserves tap water that comes out clean and drinkable, but that is not the reality for some of our communities, and that has to change.

But it is the way the reforms are being forced through contrary to democratic processes that sticks in the craw for most people. Opposition to the reforms has been resounding, but this is a Government that does not listen. A July Cabinet paper quietly uploaded to the Department of Internal Affairs’ website last November showed that the compulsory, ‘all-in’ legislated approach was agreed to in June, weeks before the four entity model was announced, and months before the eight week ‘engagement period’ with local government began.

While councils engaged with the Government in good faith with the expectation that their views would be genuinely considered, the decision to strip them of their assets had already been made!

This Government has shown incredible contempt of local councils throughout the entire process. The consultation process was a farce, and wasted an inordinate amount of local councils’ time and resources; a serious of cartoonish, misleading ads tried to disparage them; and they were offered $2.5 billion in funding, which was essentially a bribe.

National will back local communities and local government across the country. National will work with councils to develop solutions that will solve the problems we face. This includes how we fund local government to invest in better infrastructure and encourage councils to collaborate, as this can offer benefits of scale.

National will repeal the three waters proposal when we form the next Government in 2023 to ensure water remains in local control.

The Water Services Entities Bill is now before the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee and public submissions are open until Friday, 22 July 2022. It’s time to have your say!

Authorised by Andrew Bayly, MP for Port Waikato, 7 Wesley Street, Pukekohe


According to the Government, local councils will still be the ‘owners’ of their assets, but they won’t actually have any control over them. “It’s like saying you own a house, but don’t get to decide where to put the furniture,” Simon explained.



This Government has shown incredible contempt of local councils throughout the entire process. The consultation process was a farce, and wasted an inordinate amount of local councils’ time and resources; a serious of cartoonish, misleading ads tried to disparage them; and they were offered $2.5 billion in funding, which was essentially a bribe.


Andrew Bayly is the MP for Port Waikato, the Shadow Treasurer (Revenue) and the National Party spokesperson for Infrastructure and Statictics.



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elocal Digital Edition – July 2022 (#255)

elocal Digital Edition
July 2022 (#255)


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