Three Waters plan ‘undemocratic’

The Government’s pursuit of Three Waters reform has been criticised at a Dunedin protest as an undemocratic overreach.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union campaigns manager Louis Houlbrooke told a crowd of more than 150 people in the Octagon yesterday the proposed co-governance structure involving iwi was an erosion of the principle of one person, one vote.

Communities also had strong misgivings about the plan to shift control of water assets from councils to large regional entities, he said.

A Government Bill establishing the four entities passed its first reading in Parliament this week.

Mr Houlbrooke said the public could make submissions to the finance and expenditure select committee and the Bill would come back before Parliament by November 11.

"That gives us five months to give them hell," he said.

Mr Houlbrooke called for the select committee to tour New Zealand to hear from communities.

Protesters wanting to stop Three Waters reform gather in the Octagon, Dunedin, yesterday. PHOTOS:...
Protesters wanting to stop Three Waters reform gather in the Octagon, Dunedin, yesterday. PHOTOS: PETER MCINTOSH
More than 100,000 people had signed a petition calling for the reforms to be stopped.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has acknowledged strong opposition to reforms, but said decisive action was needed to ensure communities had safe and affordable drinking water services, along with stormwater and wastewater networks that "meet our environmental and cultural expectations".

Mana whenua and councils will have an equal number of seats on representation groups that set the entities’ strategic direction.

They will appoint board members to the water service bodies.

Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis said the council faced "losing the biggest asset we have", but ramifications extended to an attack on democracy and dilution of local control over the environment.

Dunedin had built up its wastewater, stormwater and drinking water infrastructure over 150 years.

"Our Three Waters have served us well," Cr Vandervis said.

"They have served us well because we are accountable to you to make them work."

Among the speakers at the protest is New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union campaigns manager Louis...
Among the speakers at the protest is New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union campaigns manager Louis Houlbrooke.
Cr Vandervis said the Government had presented a highly misleading picture and questionable figures that implied councils were responsible for illness springing from water supplies which they often did not run.

Retired Dunedin man Grant Martin attended the protest and said he was opposed to the way reforms were being pushed through, describing them as a Government overreach.

"We don’t seem to have any say in what’s going on any more."

He was disappointed more councillors did not attend.

Cr Carmen Houlahan, who was surprised by the taxpayers’ union referring to her as set to "feature" in the protest, said she walked past it.

Important issues were being highlighted, Cr Houlahan said.

She said she had been vocal about her concerns, which included her own council accelerating spending in Three Waters when the Government had been unclear about matters that included how it viewed councils’ debt.



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