Three Waters reforms a precursor to co-governance of NZ

Water is a taonga to all New Zealanders. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Water is a taonga to all New Zealanders. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The Government is testing the waters to see what the reaction to the Three Waters proposal will be, writes  Gerrard Eckhoff.

Nanaia Mahuta is quite correct to state that the Three Waters reforms are not about shifting ownership of council assets to government control. That is not needed. It is clearly about the redistribution and control of those vital assets to a new entity made up entirely of ministerial appointments.

Ownership, even by councils, is now far from essential if a government can legislate to subjugate ownership of land and water-use rights to political control for political advantage.

By applying this understanding, the once murky Three Waters rationale becomes crystal clear. The current Three Waters reform is more about locking in the Government’s Maori caucus, the Maori Party and the Green Party as we move towards co-governance of New Zealand.

Readers will also be aware of claims to fresh water filed with the courts by Maori interests. The back door is now wide open for the stalking horse of redistribution to co-governance. (See Maori Health Authority/demise of DHBs/separate tax system/renaming of New Zealand.)

While Maori claims to water are based on the three Treaty clauses, it must be remembered the all-important purpose of the Treaty of Waitangi was to enable British settlers and Maori to live together under a common set of laws. Non-Maori were not to be given preferential treatment over the indigenous people.

Real concerns for the wellbeing of Maori at that time were exemplified by two House of Lords select committee inquiries in the late 1830s which dealt with how Maori were being treated. The inquiry promoted genuine concerns from humanitarian groups that exposure to disease and maltreatment were threatening the very survival of the race. Today Maori make up a healthy 16% of the population.

The Government is literally testing the waters to see what reaction occurs to this Three Waters proposal, to see what level of acceptance by the wider population is allowed before loss of political power occurs.

It is of real concern that at least two southern mayors are already expressing tacit support for the Three Waters proposal without any consultation with their ratepayers. They appear not to accept that representative democracy is the tool by which they operate and therefore must seek out and accept the will and most importantly, the authority — given by the majority. It is a great mistake of understanding to believe our councils and indeed our Parliament is the basis of our freedoms. Both local and central Government politicians are generally most reluctant to defend our collective freedoms.

The Three Waters proposal and its timing are hardly a surprise. New Zealand is entirely focused on Covid-19 and its variants, which affords a perfect time to introduce contentious legislation or ‘‘reform” as the minister calls it.

If a cursory glance is cast at Government schemes to improve the wellbeing of us all, we need look no further than the failure to build the promised 100,000 new homes. The reduction of carbon in the atmosphere is mocked by importing one million tonnes of coal this year alone. The mental health issue is not well managed by Government — and so it goes on.

Councils now control land and water use through a series of regional documents with a variance of success. The big difference with the minister’s proposal from the current system is that the ratepayer has access to their local body. Try getting an appointment to see a minister of the Crown anytime soon. The minister will now appoint her representatives to manage the administration of this most vital of all local functions with a likely success rate similar to the 100,000 new houses promise.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this proposal is the contention that administration of water is simply recognising this as a right of Maori under the Treaty. It seems rather incongruous that the Treaty bestowed upon Maori one of the greatest gifts of all but unrecognised at the time in 1840. That of citizenship and equal status with British citizens. Today people from all over the world clamour to enter Britain and indeed New Zealand due to our laws and judicial system, which treats everyone equally — for the time being.

It is claimed that water is a taonga to Maori which is indisputable. So, too, is water a taonga to non-Maori, especially to those rural folk who rely on water, store water, to benefit families, friends and communities of all races, colour and creed.

We are set to be disenfranchised. As with most government ideas and schemes, the theory and the practice are simply incompatible. Author Danielle di Martino Booth quotes a sign found in a remote island off Norway which pretty much sums up the Three Waters proposal. (Paraphrased)

“Theory is when bureaucrats and ministers understand everything, but nothing works. Practice is when everything works but nobody understands why. In Wellington theory and practice are united, so nothing works as it should and nobody understands why.”

Welcome to the world of Three Waters.

 - Gerrard Eckhoff is a retired Central Otago farmer and former Otago regional councillor and Act New Zealand MP.


 

Comments

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I really cannot understand why ODT give Mr Eckhoff column inches to print his garbage. For that is what this opinion piece is.
It misrepresents known facts about: NZ History; UK history; The Labour Party housing promises from the 2017 election; the Treaty of Waitangi in both its purpose and interpretation and the Three Waters Initiative. Coupled with his speculative conspiracy theories about the underlying purpose of Three Waters it makes amusing reading.
Personally I would have relegated this piece to the comic pages.

I never thought I'd ever find myself agreeing with Mr. Eckhoff but the wholesale transfer of power from an elected local body to a committee that has members coopted because of their race does worry me about our future.

More garbage on three waters.
Let's just leave it as one water, the way it was designed to be.

This is the sort of article that needs to be on the front page so it enlightens New Zealanders to the underhand, shoddy dealings this government is doing. Nanaia Mahuta has already stated she will change the legislation to make this happen if councils don't agree to it. That's not democracy, that's dictatorship folks and not the New Zealand way.

There is nothing enlightening in this piece of rubbish. It only serves to confuse and mislead, it was designed to do. It's only appeal will be to anti labour conspiracy theorist and flat earthers.

On the contrary Ird, it is you who are out of touch with what is happening. Have you actually read the He Puapua document, I guess not. Have you examined the 3 Waters management structure, I guess not. Had you done so you would realize that Eckhoff was actually right on the button. 50 % of the 3 waters management for the south island will be appointed by Ngai Tahu, appointed, not elected. By cabinet decree, every vote requires 75% support. Therefore if Maori do not agree then the motion fails. What part of that do you not understand.
The members of this board appointed by the 23 councils will not be answerable to any one council. The members appointed by Ngai Tahu will be unaccountable to anybody other than Ngai Tahu,
When you pipe bursts in your street, whistle to the wind, no bleating to your own council will have any effect. You will then be charged 5 times above going rate for a Ngai tahu contractor to drive hundreds of km just to fix a problem in your street.
Good luck. Naivety has its price mate, those who live in la la land will live with the consequences, but so will the rest of us.

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