Accusations flow in Three Waters response

Dunedin's councillors were united about one thing — they wanted the Government to know how disappointed they were the Three Waters reform of drinking water, stormwater and wastewater was happening by force.

However, their communication of the point turned into a shemozzle.

Accusations about weak city leadership and poor communication were lobbed amid multiple notices of motion, votes and casting votes.

What emerged from the fray was a strong challenge to the Government’s approach to reform and support for a reset.

What did not emerge was clarity about how exactly the Dunedin City Council would now influence the new system.

Working constructively in an attempt to resolve concerns about system design was among the measures voted down.

Bewildered Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins was left wondering how some of his points — including that one — did not carry the day.

Cr Jim O’Malley had a victory of sorts, but not everything went his way, either.

Meantime, Cr Lee Vandervis was on the winning side of every vote.

Planned reform has been controversial for reasons ranging from fears about local influence in decision-making getting lost, to scepticism about projected cost savings from four regional water entities taking over operations from councils.

The starting point for the chaos at yesterday’s council meeting was councillors having two notices of motion to consider — one each from Mr Hawkins and Cr O’Malley.

The mayor’s had four points and three were voted down.

Expressing disappointment in the Government’s decision to make participation in its reform mandatory passed, 8-6.

Reaffirming a desire to see an enduring role for iwi Maori in governance, actively promoting community participation in select committee processes and pledging to work constructively were all voted down, 8-6.

Crs Vandervis and Rachel Elder were the swing voters.

Councillors then considered a mostly similar notice of motion from Cr O’Malley.

Expressing broad support about the need for reform was lost on Mr Hawkins’ casting vote after a 7-7 tie.

Delegating authority to Cr O’Malley to essentially be a pivotal player in advocating an alternative model was also lost on Mr Hawkins’ casting vote after a 7-7 result.

However, affirming lack of support "currently" for the four water entities — including expressing disappointment about the Government’s apparent lack of consideration of alternative models, arguing the reform programme should be reset and asking the Government to commit to "meaningful engagement with our community" — was voted through, 9-5.

Cr O’Malley had signalled at a previous meeting his notice of motion was coming.

Commenting on the mayor’s version, Cr O’Malley said "I think we need to be much more assertive".

Cr Sophie Barker said her feelings went beyond disappointment in the Government, to anger.

Cr Jules Radich suggested Mr Hawkins essentially endorsed the Government’s programme.

Mr Hawkins argued the council should try to make the best of the situation.

Cr Steve Walker said he was livid joining the reform programme was mandatory.

Several councillors were dismayed they ended up with two notices of motion on the subject.

"I think, in running these two against each other, we might have completely lost the plot," Cr Chris Staynes said.

Mayor Aaron Hawkins' motion:

That the Council:

a)     Express its disappointment in the decision to make participation in the Three Waters reform programme mandatory;

For: Crs David Benson-Pope, Rachel Elder, Marie Laufiso, Mike Lord, Chris Staynes, Lee Vandervis, Steve Walker, Mayor Aaron Hawkins

Against: Crs Sophie Barker, Doug Hall, Carmen Houlahan, Jim O'Malley, Jules Radich, Andrew Whiley

Carried 8-6

b)     Reaffirm its desire to see an enduring role for iwi Māori in the governance of three waters service delivery;

For: Crs Benson-Pope, Laufiso, Lord, Staynes, Walker, Mayor Hawkins

Against: Crs Barker, Elder, Hall, Houlahan, O'Malley, Radich, Vandervis, Whiley

Lost 6-8

c)     Actively promote community participation in the relevant Select Committee processes; and

For: Crs Benson-Pope, Laufiso, Lord, Staynes, Walker, Mayor Hawkins

Against: Crs Barker, Elder, Hall, Houlahan, O'Malley, Radich, Vandervis, Whiley

Lost 6-8

d)     Continue to work constructively, through any available avenues, in an attempt resolve our concerns around system design.

For: Crs Benson-Pope, Laufiso, Lord, Staynes, Walker, Mayor Hawkins

Against: Crs Barker, Elder, Hall, Houlahan, O'Malley, Radich, Vandervis, Whiley

Lost 6-8


Councillor Jim O'Malley's motion:

That the Council:

a)     Expresses to Government broad support for reforms in three waters.  Specifically the Council:

i)          Supports the formation of Taumata Arowai and increased water standards.

ii)          Supports Ngai Tahu participation in water services decision making.  Especially with reference to obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, The Treaty of Waitangi and the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement 1998.

iii)         Supports the aim that three waters activities must give effect to te mana o te wai.

iv)        Acknowledges that efficiencies can be gained by cooperative and coordinated behaviour between councils.

For: Crs Barker, Elder, Hall, Houlahan, O'Malley, Radich, Whiley

Against: Crs Benson-Pope, Laufiso, Lord, Staynes, Vandervis, Walker, Mayor Hawkins

Vote tied 7 -7, motion lost on chairman Aaron Hawkins' casting vote.

b)     Affirms to Government that it does not currently support the formation of the four water entities.  Specifically:

i)          We are disappointed the Government appears to have given little consideration to alternative models for water services delivery other than the proposed establishment of asset owning, multi-regional water services entities.

ii)         We state that the Three Waters Reform Programme needs to be reset.

iii)       We seek that the Government commits to meaningful engagement with our community before advancing any further with water entity reform.

For: Crs Barker, Elder, Hall, Houlahan, Laufiso, O'Malley, Radich, Vandervis, Whiley

Against: Crs Benson-Pope, Lord, Staynes, Walker, Mayor Hawkins

Carried 9-5

c)     Delegates authority to the Chair of Infrastructure Services Committee to work with staff and engage with the council, the government and other councils in the development of an alternative regional three waters services model to be completed in time to inform the government three waters reform programme.

For: Crs Barker, Elder, Hall, Houlahan, O'Malley, Radich, Whiley

Against: Crs Benson-Pope, Laufiso, Lord, Staynes, Vandervis, Walker, Mayor Hawkins

Vote tied 7-7, motion lost on chairman Aaron Hawkins' casting vote.

Comments

Clickbait news heading.

Thanks ODT for providing the vote details, I know who NOT to vote for next election, I’ll be treating the STV system as if it were First Passed the Post to ensure no ‘stray’ support goes to poor quality mayoral candidates this time

It seems obvious that the Government didn't foresee the backlash that these reforms would create, not just from councils but from the wider community. Of course, if promoting 'co-governance' isn't part of your manifesto during the election campaign then people will justifiably complain when you try to implement it.

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