I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday and enjoyed whatever beautiful part of New Zealand you chose to be in.
It was good to see our own piece of paradise welcoming people for their summer breaks.
Sadly, there are always some who abuse that hospitality by taking over public spaces, dumping rubbish and being anti-social. I received several requests for help from residents in relation to this type of behaviour and asked Council to enforce its bylaws and take action.
Many of you will know about Government’s Three Waters plan. In essence, Government would like to form four water management entities around the country and take control of drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure and assets, which are currently controlled by councils.
Government argues that doing this will improve everyone’s access to reliable, safe and clean water and water management, with the ‘scale benefit’ reducing the cost of this access.
I believe the way that this is being done is un-democratic. At the moment, you elect your council to manage local infrastructure. The Government is removing and diluting local control over those assets. Councils will have token representation on a ‘representative group’, or worse, no representation.
The proposed structure is complicated and could become a complete mess – Government has indicated a confused smorgasbord of committees, appointees and decision-makers. Local councils will not have defined, formal shareholding interests. Water assets will be controlled by bureaucrats with no accountability to local ratepayers.
For any single water entity, which might encompass 20 councils, there will only be six councillors combined with six iwi representatives in the ‘representative group’ at the bottom of the pecking order. That group selects an independent panel, which selects a board, which appoints the entity management.
The benefit of scale to cost reduction is unclear at best. Communities with good water quality will end up subsidising their poorer-performing neighbours. Your water bills will be bundled into these new entities with no guarantee that your money will be spent locally. For example, if you live on the Hibiscus Coast and have excellent water, you will likely end up paying to fix water infrastructure in Northland.
The real issue here, I believe, is that there has been a process of faux-consultation with communities, as Government decided to make this a compulsory reform before making it public. Any consultation therefore appears to be lip service.
Government has failed to get support from a significant number of regions, councils and ratepayers and yet will introduce a bill to the House this year to force change.
I believe this is absolutely the wrong approach and that assets owned by the community should stay with them. Improving and meeting water standards can be achieved through central government working alongside local government and communities.
It was the last National-led Government that started a review in response to contamination in Havelock North. The current Government has taken that review and used it as a compulsory, expensive, centralised asset seizure.
Water quality and safety is paramount to all of us and constant improvement should always be the goal, but driving deep wedges into the partnerships needed to achieve this is not leadership.
If you have any issues you need help with or topics you want to discuss with me my Ōrewa office is open and I look forward to seeing you all this year.