Changes needed to three waters plans

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Greater local oversight and control, seven instead of four entities, stormwater staying with councils, and stronger safeguards against privatisation are among the changes the Green Party wants to three waters legislation.

Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee has today published its report on the Government's Water Services Entities Bill. An alternative view presented by the Green Party makes a number of recommendations to help ensure communities have the secure and resilient drinking, wastewater and stormwater services they deserve.

"The Green Party has long said that changing the way we manage both land and three waters is essential to ensure everyone has access to clean, safe drinking water, and wastewater management improves. The changes we seek will help deliver that," says the Green Party's three waters spokesperson, Eugenie Sage.

"Strong public ownership and control, sustainable funding, and meaningful iwi Māori involvement in the governance of drinking and wastewater infrastructure is essential.

"We agree the status quo is untenable. However, the proposed model lacks a strong connection to regional communities and long-term funding certainty.

"It is imperative that the Government takes the time to consider a number of changes to its current proposals.

"For a start, the Green Party wants to see seven not four entities and local councils having greater oversight of the entities. This would ensure community voices are at the decision making table and enable better alignment with regional spatial strategies under the proposed Spatial Planning Act.

"The Green Party calls on the Government to consider alternative ways of ensuring the new water entities can access the investment they need.

"Long term investment is vital for improving infrastructure to guarantee affordable access to safe, clean water, and effective wastewater services, including in the face of the worsening effects of climate change. Options such as a Crown guarantee for borrowing would allow councils to have a bigger ownership stake in the entities, while allowing them to invest in improving services.

"Access to clean water is a basic human right and a public good. The only way to guarantee a water secure future for our kids is to keep infrastructure and services in public ownership. The Green Party wants to see stronger safeguards against privatisation, including entrenching public ownership in law, and around entity proposals to transfer or dispose of infrastructure assets and services.

"Stormwater should also stay with councils because of its connection to urban planning and green space. The entities should only be responsible for drinking water supplies and wastewater, a two waters model which Watercare has successfully operated in Auckland.

"The Green Party's recommended changes would better connect the entities with communities while enabling them to properly invest in clean, safe, climate-resilient water services for present and future generations.

"I want to acknowledge the many councils and members of the public who made submissions on the bill. The changes recommended by the select committee respond to some of those concerns, but don't go far enough," says Eugenie Sage.

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