The Real Dangers Behind Labour’s 3 Waters Plans

By Clive Jackson

Firstly the base facts are:- 

  1. Roughly 40% of current local body rates are spent on fresh water supply, storm water and sewerage disposal (the 3 Waters). 3 Waters is the largest area of work carried out by local councils. 
  1. Water services make up approximately 35% of local council assets which will no longer be available to the councils to use as security for borrowing. This is a huge disadvantage for councils and will result in a major limit on borrowing, particularly for councils that have no borrowing against their water assets like Whangarei. It is similar to being told by the government that your house which is valued at $900,000 is now only valued at $600,000 (because it now controls a third of it) and also that you have to pay 40% of your income to government to manage that third it now controls.
  1. 97% of drinking water supplies in New Zealand currently meet world safety standards. There are much simpler and substantially cheaper ways to sort out the 3% with issues. Interestingly the Havelock North campylobacter outbreak (which government has used as one of its major reasons to push 3 Waters legislation) was solved and fixed. 
  1. 60 out of 67 local councils (this includes 6 Unitary councils which amalgamated a number of councils like Auckland City Council) do not support the proposed legislation. Only those few councils that have failed to manage their current (and set aside reserves for future work) water services responsibly support the new legislation as it will result in their failures being subsidised by the other 90% that have been responsible. 
  1. The government 3 Waters advertising campaign (that we taxpayers are funding) is not only designed to frighten children and uninformed members of the public but is also misleading and not factual. 
  1. Labour promised local councils the right to opt out of the legislation but after realising that close to 90% opposed it they are now making it compulsory. 
  1. The proposed legislation not only transfers 50% of the control of water services to unelected Iwi teams (which will be selected by government) but sets up 3 new levels of bureaucracy so that decisions will be made by a team that is 3 times removed from any members elected by ratepayers. Firstly each of the new “super water boards” will have 50% representatives from Local Councils and 50% unelected Iwi representatives. Those boards (12 people) then elect an independent selection board which then appoints the entity board which then appoints a management team. 
  1. Labour says that the new system will create 7,000 new jobs, upgrade water services to world leading standards and then substantially reduce current water bills. Sounds unbelievable. However as we all know, if something sounds too good to be true then it usually isn’t. 

So what is the real danger? 

Simple. This is a further blatant example of Labour’s plan to impose central government control over all major aspects of our lives and removing as many local government rights as it can. If the government’s 3 Waters legislation proceeds, the powers of local councils is effectively reduced by 40% in one foul swoop. This is a great win for Labour when you consider that at the last local council elections we saw a noticeable movement away from “Labour” aligned councillors.  Looking at candidates lining up for next year’s local body elections (Auckland City is the prime example), this trend is continuing. These new councillors are a clear threat to the current Labour government. 

How the 3 Waters legislation actually achieves the Labour government’s aims occurs in several orchestrated steps. 

Firstly it separates off approximately 35% of the current 67 local council’s assets (and 40% of their budgets) into 4 new entities. This immediately means it becomes much easier to control by government especially considering that the second step is that it is establishing a new (unelected) government regulatory authority which sets the standards for all 3 Waters across New Zealand including enforcement procedures, penalties and rights to require certain expenditure. If you have the right to set the rules and the budget, you control it. 

Step 3 is government will take a 50% control of the 4 new “super water boards” and appoint Maori representatives to manage that 50%. Note government makes these appointments, not Iwi. We need to understand that whoever controls “appointment” controls the appointees so this is a further step in the “scheme” to take central government control using Maori as a cover. The reason for this is straight forward. If you object to the Maori representation you are labelled a racist. Luckily many Iwi don’t support the new legislation. They have realised what is happening and that they will lose control of their current water assets as well if it proceeds. 

National and Act have pledged to repeal this legislation if they get into government in 2023. Luckily Labour will not have been able to fully implement the changes by then. Sadly however they will have wasted a further $10 – $20 million in their futile plans in the meantime. 

And finally, Labour has used Scotland’s 3 Waters system as it’s justification and model for it’s proposed legislation for New Zealand because Scotland has a similar size population – 5.5 million. What they forgot to tell you however is that 96% of Scotland’s population live in an area 20% of the size of New Zealand and that 4% of Scotland’s water supplies are private schemes. Even forgetting the fact that the remote areas of Scotland have private water schemes, Scotland is 25% of the length of New Zealand and 50% of the width. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that we are not comparing apples with apples. Just another of Labour’s misleading advertising campaigns. 

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