The Northern Advocate

Three Waters law passes

Labour pushes through reforms after fiery debate and opposition from other parties

- Michael Neilson

‘Seeping sewage into our pristine lakes like Taupō” is the picture embattled Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta painted as she for the last time sought to rally support in Parliament for the controvers­ial Three Waters reforms.

It wasn’t needed, however, as Labour with its majority passed the Water Services Entities Bill through its third and final reading yesterday, despite opposition from each of the four other parties from all sides of the political spectrum.

Its passing came amid a fiery debate with National and Act MPs, who have opposed the reforms vehemently throughout the process, giving it one last shot to paint their own pictures of rushed and ineffectiv­e legislatio­n, while railing against removing assets from local councils and Māori representa­tion.

They have both vowed to repeal the law if they hold power after the 2023 elections.

The Greens supported most of the reforms and the bill through its first and second readings but held off yesterday due to concerns about a lack of protection­s from privatisat­ion.

Te Pāti Māori was also opposed, saying despite claims from both sides of the House it did not implement “cogovernan­ce” and tino rangatirat­anga, or self-determinat­ion, had been ignored.

The bill is the first of three as part of the reforms, aimed to ensure affordable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services are available across the country.

While the aim of the reforms has relatively widespread support, it is the manner in which they have been proposed that has been controvers­ial, including taking water assets from 67 councils and amalgamati­ng them into one of four massive water entities.

The councils will own these entities through a shareholdi­ng and will co-govern them with mana whenua.

Due to earlier opposition to the reforms, the Government brought

Most mayors and councils across this country support the need for reform . . . but oppose this bill.

Simon Watts, National Party

together nine mayors and nine iwi representa­tives to find their own solutions, in the end accepting nearly all the group’s 47 recommenda­tions.

Mahuta started her speech by focusing on the root issues the law was designed to address, the boil water notices, no swim notices and regular burst storm and wastewater pipes all over the country.

“Seeping sewage into our pristine lakes like Taupō, happens . . . In a country like ours this is just not good enough,” she said.

“This Government is 100 per cent committed to ensuring our water assets remain in public ownership, and we call on the Opposition to make the same commitment to New Zealanders.”

National Party local government spokesman Simon Watts reiterated he and his colleagues were “strongly opposed” and would repeal the law if elected in 2023. Watts said the reforms were one of the most controvers­ial in recent times, referencin­g the 88,000 submission­s with the majority opposed.

“Most mayors and councils across this country support the need for reform, to improve water infrastruc­ture, but strongly oppose this bill as a means to achieve those ends.”

Act Party local government spokesman Simon Court said it agreed there was a problem with Three Waters infrastruc­ture but it could be solved within the existing system.

Its solution would involve assets remaining with councils with a regulator, already-existing Taumata Arowai, ensuring they were managed appropriat­ely and meeting environmen­tal commitment­s.

The law passed establishe­s four new publicly-owned water services entities, and provides for the transfer to them of existing Three Waters workforce and expertise from local authoritie­s.

The second two bills were up for their first readings last night.

 ?? Photo / Mark Mitchell ?? Nanaia Mahuta says the Government is committed to water assets remaining in public ownership.
Photo / Mark Mitchell Nanaia Mahuta says the Government is committed to water assets remaining in public ownership.

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