Water reforms amount to theft - Garry Moore

Former mayor Garry Moore. Photo: File
Former mayor Garry Moore. Photo: File
Don’t let Government water reforms be water under the bridge.

That’s the plea from former Christchurch mayor Garry Moore as he mobilises support to rail against centralised control of the country’s drinking, waste and stormwater networks.

Moore warns the Three Waters reform programme will have a detrimental effect in Christchurch, where a public meeting is scheduled on Wednesday to outline the pitfalls to ratepayers.

He said Christchurch City Council currently had $6.9 billion worth of water assets and $1.1 billion worth of debt.

Under the Government proposal those assets would be taken from the city council and absorbed by a new organisation covering 20 local authorities in the South Island.

“The council will receive $122 million as a sweetener, but we’ll have very little say,” Moore said.

“This is theft by central government. Thirty pieces of silver comes to mind. These assets have been built up by generations and generations of ratepayers in Christchurch.”

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Moore, who was skeptical of the proposed benefits to ratepayers, will chair a meeting featuring Pauline Cotter, Jim O’Malley and Ian Pottinger – who chair the respective infrastructure committees at the Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill city councils – plus Green Party list MP Eugenie Sage.

“There’s some very dubious numbers around about what benefit it [Three Waters] will be in costs for ratepayers over 30 years,” Moore said.

“We all know once you centralise things and parts of that get privatised we end up with what we had this week with blackouts [power outages affecting 20,000 homes in the central and eastern North Island].

“Remember with energy, the reforms were going to give us cheaper power. And have we got cheaper power? No. Can we rely on the system? No,” Moore said.

“What happened is people within the [energy] sector started getting massive salaries, huge salaries that weren’t when they were under councils. The same thing is going to happen with water.”

Moore said public debate was vital as Local Government New Zealand was determined to “shoehorn” councils to support Three Waters.

“There has been a massive investment [in water] by our council, we have safe water,” said Moore, who queried how water charges would be assessed.

“We want to say to the Government: ‘You’ve got this wrong’. We support New Zealanders having clean water but you’ve rushed straight to a single solution rather than looking at how we can work at a local level with councils and iwi.

“Let’s come up with a South Island model to put back at the government.”

Moore acknowledged the Government was worried about a repeat of the situation in Havelock North were four people died and 5000 fell ill when the Hawke’s Bay town’s water supply was contaminated by campylobacter in 2016.

But he argued blame did not sit with the local authority.

“What happened was poor systems and poor monitoring of the systems by the Ministry of Health,” he said.

  • The meeting will be held on Wednesday at the Aldersgate Centre, 309 Durham St, from 7pm.