Press pause on Three Waters reforms

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Green Party says the Government should hit the pause button on its three waters reform so it can fully address the concerns that have been raised by communities and councils all over the country.

“There is very little in today’s three waters announcement that will reassure councils that they will have the chance to shape the new system in a way that works for their communities,” says Eugenie Sage, Green Party Three Waters spokesperson.

“Access to clean water is a basic human right and a public good. People want to have their say on how drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services are provided for present and future generations.

“From the beginning of this process local communities have not been given enough of a chance to have their concerns listened to and addressed. Now they will be sceptical about whether the Labour Government’s plan to press ahead with legislation in early December will allow enough time for substantive changes to be made to what Government has proposed.

“There is wide agreement that the status quo is not an option and change is needed. For decades central and local government have systematically under invested in our three waters infrastructure, which has affected both the standard of services and environmental quality.

“The Green Party is calling on the Government to stop and listen to what councils are saying. It needs to allow time to work through concerns and look at alternatives ways of achieving a positive outcome for New Zealanders.

“This includes looking at proposals for alternative governance, representation and accountability models.

“Pushing ahead without fully addressing these and other concerns councils have raised risks undermining community support for any form of change. This could set back efforts to improve the delivery of three waters by years.

“We welcome the Government’s plan to establish working groups of local government, iwi and water industry experts to work through the proposed reforms. But the reality is that there is only seven weeks between now and when legislation mandating three waters reforms will be introduced.

“This is not enough time to make the necessary changes to what the Government has proposed. Major reform like this needs to be done in partnership with iwi and local communities. The risk otherwise is a ‘reverse Goldilocks’ situation, where no one is happy with the outcome.

The Green Party wants to see more than the four proposed entities so communities are closer to the decisions being made about their water services.

The Green Party is also calling for an improved governance model which retains or improves the existing accountability mechanisms over governance, assets and service delivery that councils use for council controlled organisations (CCO). There also needs to be meaningful iwi Māori involvement in the governance of the new entities.

The Green Party is also calling on Labour and National to back its plan to strengthen protections against future privatisation by supporting a requirements for 75% majority support in Parliament for any law change to allow privatisation of three waters assets or infrastructure; as well as 75% majority of local electors.

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