Greens will keeping pushing to protect public ownership of water

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Green Party will continue to push for strong protections of core public assets so they cannot be sold off against the wishes of New Zealanders.

“Universal, affordable access to water services is a basic human right and a public good. Keeping these essential services in public ownership deserves strong legal protection,” says the Green Party local government spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The Green Party first called on Labour and National to back our plan to strengthen protections against future privatisation in October last year.

“We would have welcomed a public conversation about this proposal at any point during the Parliamentary process for the three waters legislation. New Zealanders deserve this debate. Unfortunately the debate ended up happening under urgency in Parliament – a step that can lead to rushed decision making – which the Greens opposed at the time.

“The reality is that when a government has an outright majority, the Committee of the Whole House stage of the legislative process is the only opportunity other parties have to present and have amendments voted on. This is regardless of how long a party has been talking about their ideas, or how much they’d have preferred there to be a deliberative public consideration of the issue.

“We know from experience that once a critical infrastructure asset is privatised, or partially privatised, it is very hard to bring it back into public ownership.

“Requiring a 60 percent majority of Parliament, or a straight majority in a referendum, would require any future government to build political support and consensus for any winding back of public ownership. This would uphold the very strong public support for public ownership by preventing a simple majority changing the law to privatise precious water assets.

“Parliament’s Standing Orders (270) clearly provide for entrenchment and that Parliament must carry any entrenchment proposal by the same majority as in the entrenchment clause. That’s what happened with the Greens amendment.

“There was very good reason for doing this – not only because it was the only opportunity in the process for us to amend the Bill, but so we can protect against New Zealanders’ justified scepticism about National and ACT’s intentions. National partially privatised our energy companies when it was last in government and ACT wants greater private involvement in the operation of three waters services.

“We are disappointed with how this debate has unfolded this week. If anything it shows there is an urgent need for a public conversation on how to better protect core public assets – particularly water – from being sold off against the wishes of most New Zealanders. The Green Party will continue to fight for strong protection of the ongoing public ownership of our three waters assets, services and infrastructure,” says Eugenie Sage.

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