Join us to fight this asset grab!
The Government is trying to grab New Zealand's water assets and take away local control of our most precious resource. And it’s about to raise the price of residents’ water. Local Government Minister Mahuta is driving this Three Waters Reform, which seeks to grab all of New Zealand's multi-million dollar water assets – and remove local control of our water infrastructure.
To have your voice heard, sign one (or all) of the three major petitions operating across New Zealand:
National Party: https://www.national.org.nz/stop-the-three-waters-asset-grab
Act Party: https://www.act.org.nz/threewaters
Taxpayer's Union: https://www.taxpayers.org.nz/three_waters
The Government is trying to drive through its “Three Waters Reform”. It wants to take over the water assets of all 67 Councils in New Zealand – and amalgamate them into 4 mega-entities. Local Government Minister Mahuta claims this move will show benefits for ratepayers over a 30-year timeframe. But the immediate impact is that water rates will go up!
What’s worse, local communities will lose control of their water…while having to pay significantly more in the short-term.
That’s because joining the new mega-entity will force residents to face an immediate price rise in order to be consistent with other councils in the entity.
Councillors had to provide feedback on joining this mega-entity by 30 September 2021. But what is unbelievable is that Councillors were being asked to provide this feedback when staff cannot tell us how much your water rates will go up when joining the mega-entity.
We know water rates will rise, but just not how much? Some councils have worked out the increase and it is more than 240% in the first year!
Click on the link to see Westland’s mayor, Bruce Smith, explaining how the average residential ratepayer’s water rates will soar from $527 to $1640 in the first year
Loss of local control
The Government’s grab for ALL water assets will remove local control of water infrastructure.
These water assets have been built up by previous generations of New Zealanders– but Government plans to take them without paying adequate compensation.
Under Minister Mahuta’s plan, power over our water assets will shift to a non-publicly elected mega corporate entity covering most of the central North Island.
Entity B will control 22 North Island councils’ assets. It will be controlled by a governance group of 12 people – including six iwi. So there’s only six seats for 22 councils. That group will appoint an appointment panel which will then appoint a Board to control Entity B’s water and sewerage needs.
What this means is that each region's multi-million dollar water assets will be run by a non-elected board of strangers who make up a faceless bureaucracy
Minister Mahuta is also effectively giving 50% control over our water to iwi – and these iwi members are not publicly elected.
This Govts power grab is a serious attempt to depower local democracy
The Coromandel is expected to give up its multi-million dollars worth of water assets for virtually no compensation. You can see from the commemorative plaque below that Thames-Coromandel ratepayers have spent large sums of money on building up water assets for more than 100 years! But Minister Mahuta wants to take these all away with no compensation.
You will see from the photo that it is ratepayers who have spent 200,000 pounds back in 1923 to create this particular water system. That’s an awful lot of money in today’s terms – and yet people are being expected to give these up for nothing.
What's more, it is ratepayers not taxpayers who own these assets. So, the State has no right to seize them arbitrarily with a Big Government agenda. We, the ratepayers, own our water assets – and we should not give them up without a fight!
30 years from now...
Minister Mahuta claims that New Zealander's will be better off 30 years from now because of the reduced costs of water upgrades.
But who knows how accurate the Government’s projections are 30 years into the future. And that is a long time away. Just think back to 30 years ago to see how much can change. That’s before the internet, cellphone, DVD or the Twin Tower bombings. So who’s to say that a revolutionary new water filtration technology will not emerge 10 years from now – and we will have handed over our precious local water assets to Big Government for no compensation needlessly!
What we do know for certain is that as soon as New Zealand gives up its water assets, prices for ratepayers will rise!
To convince councils to sign up to the Three Waters asset grab, Government is promising cash bribes to councils with Thames-Coromandel being offered $16 million and Hamilton $58 million to sign up. But what is the cost benefit? Who loses in this deal?
That’s right…the losers are you, the ratepayer, who has built up these assets over generations, and now is expected to give them away to a faceless mega-entity….and your own water rates will rise significantly!
And by the way, if Councils agrees to accept the bribe, the dollars cannot be spent unless iwi agree. They have veto rights in perpetuity over the spending of this bribe. That’s part of the deal.
Negative impact on industry
Water is absolutely vital for industrial and agricultural production.
But just as residential ratepayers will see immediate increases in water charges, so too will the aquaculture, industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors face significant increases.
We don’t know how much, because Council staff cannot tell us. But on 30 September Councillors are being asked to provide feedback on transferring (for no adequate compensation) water assets with no actual idea of the cost to the business sector.
So if you are worried about the impact of a sudden water rate hike on the region’s economic output, then so are we!
But in future if you want to complain, then you may be talking to a faceless bureaucracy of 22 merged-councils (plus 50% control by iwi) who won’t be nearly as accountable as your local council. Good luck!
Local control and local input are at stake, unless you join us in lobbying.
Lack of consultation!
Local government is required by law to consult extensively with its community when buying or selling major assets.
The move to mega water corporations is the biggest change to local government in New Zealand in more than 30 years. But Minister Mahuta required Councils to provide feedback on this single option iwi-council joint venture model by the end of September 2021. Then she announced in Parliament that she intended to mandate the changes regardless of feedback!
This means the people of the New Zealand may NEVER get a proper say. The only opportunity to submit may be through Parliamentary Select Committee in Wellington, where the Labour Government holds an absolute majority.
As concerned ratepayers, we do not believe there has been adequate opportunity to consult with the community in the brief eight-week timeframe.
That’s why we have set up this website – to encourage the community to get more engaged in this momentous change process. Our view is that we need to resist the rush to make such a major decision.
Other councils, such as the Canterbury Water Forum, have demanded that Government slow down the process. They want the decisions delayed until the new water service regulator Taumata Arowai is properly established, and there is clarity around water standards https://www.odt.co.nz/star-news/star-christchurch/canterbury-mayors-call-three-waters-reforms-pause
Minister Mahuta shows no signs of listening to this call….so we need to get a louder groundswell.
After all, it is ratepayer’s assets that are being stripped away. And under the Local Government Act, councils are legally obliged to consult widely if they purchase or sell major assets.
Water is the new gold
Water is a valuable asset which is becoming increasing sparse around the world. By 2040 it is expected that most of the world won’t have enough water to satisfy demand. That’s why Investment bank Goldman Sacks describes "water is the petroleum of the 21st century."
As water becomes increasingly sparse globally, it’s also becoming increasingly valuable as a commodity with more interest from big corporations in its potential for profit.
Remember this when considering the Government’s rush to push through the Three Water Reforms, particularly when you think of the multi-million dollars worth of water, wastewater and stormwater assets which residents have paid for but which they are now expected to give away control of.
For a global view, take a look at this video “Blue Gold – the World’s Water Wars”.
The risk of privatisation
Privatisation is a real risk once the 67 local councils are merged into four water entities.
Minister Mahuta says the safeguard is that the Board of the Mega-Entity must agree 75% to privatisation…and then seek a referendum from the region concerned.
However all it takes is one little Parliamentary tweak to move the bar down to 50%, or remove the need for a referendum altogether.
The previous Labour Government followed a similar sell-off of the people’s assets in the 1980s (when they had an absolute majority in Parliament just like today) with the corporatisation and then privatisation of forestry, steel, banking, railways and Telecom.
The risk we face is that by converting the assets of 67 councils into four bite-sized pieces, New Zealand’s water assets could prove ripe for the picking.
Given the global demand for water assets, then many international corporates might be circling. See Newsweek link https://www.newsweek.com/race-buy-worlds-water-73893
So, what's the alternative?
The Government is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Yes, some local councils need to upgrade their water networks….and this could be expensive for some communities in the future.
But regions can run their water network well – and we do not need this mega-amalgamation. All the Government has to do is help with the funding occasionally and let the Council's get on with it.
There are other much easier ways of supporting water upgrades:
- Government could underwrite Council debt on water infrastructure
- Drive off-balance sheet models which do not hit debt ceilings
- Direct fund investment just like it does for roading infrastructure
But unfortunately Minister Mahuta is not listening. She is adamant that there is only one option on the table – an option that merges 22 councils’s water assets and gives iwi 50% control.
So what can you do?
This unfair, inequitable reform is likely to be rammed through by Government unless the public gives strong feedback to Councillors by 30 September.
If you think that Government is rushing through the most major change in local government in 30 years with inadequate consultation, along with bad outcomes then you need to take action.
What we are asking for is delaying this momentous decision to allow for adequate consultation with our community.
If the benefits from Three Waters Reform only surface up to 30 years in the future, then there is no urgency – unless the Government is running another hidden agenda to take control of community assets and disempower local democracy.
How to make your voices heard:
- Form local action groups
- Sign the petition that must be read out in Parliament