Luxon: Government must park Three Waters plans

With an overwhelming majority of councils not onboard, the Government’s programme is in dire straits and its four entity model is floundering fast, says Botany MP Christopher Luxon. Photo Carterton District Council

Labour must listen to the multitude of mayors pleading for the Three Waters plans to be dumped, National’s Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says.

“With an overwhelming majority of councils not onboard, the Government’s programme is in dire straits and its four entity model is floundering fast.

“Only a handful of mayors have explicitly supported the reforms, while the remaining 60-odd are not on board. Many are in fact urging the Government to suspend the process because they have not had adequate time to digest the detail or consult their communities.

“The South Island entity D is in serious doubt, with mayors from across the West Coast, Canterbury, Otago and Southland writing to the Minister and asking for a pause.

“The northern entity A has all but fallen apart, with Far North and Whangārei already gone and the remaining two councils, Auckland and Kaipara, in strong opposition and likely to leave next.

“Meanwhile, Hawke’s Bay mayors are against the reforms and other councils throughout entities B and C in areas like the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Manawatū are hitting the brakes.

“It’s no surprise mayors are rebuking the Government’s woeful consultation timeframe and apparent need for speed.

“National has consistently said that the supposed benefits and cost savings haven’t been adequately explained to the public.

“We oppose the Three Waters Reforms. The touted scale benefits are unrealistic, ratepayers would end up cross-subsidising neighbouring areas, and the entities would strip power from communities and steal control of their water assets.

“The Government must heed the mayors’ calls and at a bare minimum, pause the programme immediately.

“I would encourage them to go one step further and dump the Three Waters plan altogether. We must keep the ‘local’ in local government.”

ACT Leader David Seymour says Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has shown “staggering arrogance towards councils” on Q+A this morning on the Government’s Three Waters policy. 

“Many councils want nothing to do with Three Waters. Whangārei, for instance, has shown the Government’s cost benefit analysis for its Three Waters policy exaggerates the benefits five times over,” says Seymour.

“The Minister could not explain why her plan would be five times better, simply insisting that the Government’s work was ‘peer reviewed.’ She forgot to say that Whangārei’s analysis was a peer review by international economics consultancy Castalia.

“Asked if the Government would simply legislate objecting councils into its scheme, the Minister dodged the question. It’s clear the Government intends to bully councils when its hapless attempts at persuasion fails.

“If councils do not buy in to the Government’s scheme, they don’t get taxpayer subsidies through central Government. In fact, the Government’s proposed Governance model is so complicated and remote from the citizen, Councils would rather refuse taxpayer money than be part of it.

“ACT’s solution acknowledges the challenge some, but not all, councils face managing Three Waters. It allows councils to form their own voluntary water co-operatives with neighbours if they choose.

“ACT’s solution uses 30-year plans with central Government for each council and region.  These partnerships, along with public private partnerships to attract investment capital, would allow councils to reach higher standards for Three Waters, without using dodgy modelling to force an unwieldy Governance structure on unwilling councils.”