Three Waters: What’s Not To Like?


WHERE ARE THE HEADS of Labour’s Caucus at? What was going through them when Nanaia Mahuta brought her “Three Waters” plan to them for ratification? What’s that you say? Nanaia didn’t bring Three Waters before Labour’s Caucus for ratification.

What a perfectly marvellous pre-1984 concept: Caucus Power!

No, this massive reform programme was just as likely to have been a Cabinet decision pure and simple. And, if The Daily Blog’s esteemed editor is to be believed, Three Waters wasn’t even Nanaia Mahuta’s idea – not really.

Apparently, the whole thing was dreamt up by David Parker, the Sixth Labour Government’s scary éminence grise. He sold his monstrous plan to Nanaia as the long-sought solution to the vexed issue of Māori and Water. A delighted Nanaia then sold it to her Māori colleagues, who, desperate for any sort of policy win (the latter being rather thin on the ground) seized it with both hands.

Which means that even if the Three Waters plan was brought in front of Labour’s Caucus for ratification, what Pakeha Labour MP in his or her right mind was going to incur the odium of raising “colonialist” objections to the fulfilment of the Crown’s te Tiriti obligations? Nobody – that’s who.

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So, assuming that it was indeed the Talented Mr Parker who came up with this plan: to seize the entire drinking, storm and waste water infrastructure of the nation, wrap it up in layer upon layer of legal Kevlar, and then, with the cheapest money taxpayers’ money can borrow, implement the sort of upgrades that generation after generation of cowardly local politicians have considered it more expedient to defer; where’s the problem?

Surely it makes the very best kind of sense to nationalise the whole shebang? Surely, Mr Parker’s four “Entities”, all of them operating under “professional governance”, will manage the three waters for the benefit of the whole community – not just in the interests of the farmers, developers and industrialists who, for more than a century, have run local government as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kiwi Capitalism Limited? Surely, what Mr Parker is offering us is Socialism? So, come on Comrades – what’s not to like?

One word, six syllables: Sub-sid-i-ar-it-y.

Never heard of it? Well, yeah, that’s because most of us grew up in New Zealand, not Europe. Subsidiarity is a well understood and respected concept in the nations of the European Union.

Terrific. What does it mean?

According to Wikipedia: “Subsidiarity is an organizing principle [which holds] that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority.”

It does not require a Professor of Political Studies to point out the synergies between Subsidiarity and Democracy. If all politics is, ultimately, local, then all democratic politics must have a local component.

Who do you call if your rubbish isn’t collected? The Council.

Who lays on the bus service? The Council.

Who makes sure clean water comes out when you turn the tap? The Council – oh – wait a minute.

Yes, yes, yes, I know: when people turned on their taps in Havelock North the water that came out wasn’t clean. Four people died. Thousands became ill. The locals were enraged. They demanded answers – and clean water. And, guess what: they got both. Subsidiarity and Democracy worked.

If “The Council” hadn’t cleaned up Havelock North’s water, then the voters of Havelock North would have elected themselves another. That’s what Democracy is all about: accountability from the governors because, ultimately, they derive their “just powers” from “the consent of the governed”.

Now, ask yourself, how accountable will these Parker/Mahuta “Entities” be to the people who turn on their taps? Because, let’s be very clear here, no ordinary person gets to vote for any of the people providing “professional governance” for the Three Waters “Entities”. Indeed, the entire system is designed to keep the ordinary person as far away from the people making the decisions as possible.

As currently designed the system works like this: Your vote contributes to the formation of a Council. Your Council’s vote contributes to the formation of a group of people whose job it is to appoint the people who will appoint the people who will run the “Entity”.

So, if there’s a problem with your water, who do you call? Not your Council – that’s for sure. While it may technically “own” the “Entity” (or, at least, a part of it) it does not control it. There’s no point in calling the bodies which appoint the people who run the “entity” either, their job is done.

So, where’s the problem? You just call the “Entity”.

Yep, you can do that. It may be headquartered in a city 200 kilometres away. The person at the other end of the phone may never have so much as driven through your town. Complaints may be coming into the call centre you’ve reached every few seconds. So – good luck with that.

What featherbrained bunch of bureaucrats dreamed up this complicated and unaccountable system? The answer, sadly, is bureaucrats who wanted the new Three Waters “Entities” to be able to borrow the billions needed to upgrade our drinking, storm and waste water systems as cheaply as possible. To achieve this, they rang Standard & Poors – the credit-rating agency – and asked them what they needed to do – structure-wise – to get the best deal. The ratings agency (surprise, surprise) told them that the “Entities” had to be sealed-off, hermetically, from the influence and interference of interested parties – i.e. you and me. In the jargon: the Councils and the “Entities” had to have “separate balance sheets”.

Please don’t tell me you’re surprised. That’s how Neoliberalism works. It does all it can to insulate the key economic and social decision-makers from the influence and interference of politicians elected by the people on the receiving-end of those same decision-makers’ resolutions. On the Neoliberal balance sheet, Subsidiarity and Democracy simply do not add up.

Whatever else his Caucus colleagues may discover on the Talented Mr Parker’s “To Do” list, they will not find any plans to introduce Socialism via the water supply.


  1. Sorry Chris, I have no idea what you just wrote about???? And I thought the whole three waters thing was complex! Can you explain please, because I am only of average intelligence.

    • Maybe a brain washing tactic to tune people out, so they fall asleep?

      Sorry your sarcasm about the wonders of 3 waters, is slightly lost in translation

      But is the jist that they are doing it, because some overseas credit agency told them to?

      Not because they are control freaks and have plenty of time on their hands to move to something else after wrecking housing, education, human rights and freedom of speech and transport.

    • Three Waters, thinking in the medium term, is easily explained in three simple words.
      1. Privatise.
      2. Privatising.
      3. Privatised.

      Now let me see…what other essential service cash cows, that are currently owned by its citizens, are left to sell off in this once great little country?

  2. Is Labour even worse than National and ACT for Neoliberalism. Maybe not, but it’s all adding up. This must be the transformation promised, not exactly what the punters envisaged. New Plymouth District Council fixed my water pipe failure toot-sweet and did a very good job at zero cost. Hard to beat that. I can imagine trying to ring a Govt’ run service centre and getting the ACC level of service, ie long wait times, too long, then give up.
    If this is a neo liberal solution then it follows that is the intention, as you said more or less.

  3. The new entities can fix the mess we have with water and waste without interference from elected members, whose priorities are understandably not sewage nor sewerage.
    Similar to the health boards, local governance is good in theory but falls well short on delivery and decision making.
    This is our best opportunity to fix the housing crisis-sounds crazy I know! The new entity should be funded for 30% greenfield infrastructure (including publicly owned golf course land) which would reduce the cost of sections. These new sites would be only on flat land/poor soil to reduce costs. If everyone can afford a section-they can then build their tiny home or kitset or transportable, to suit their finances. There is no need for a housing crisis.

  4. If only all Councillors & Councils had shown they could be trusted as competent managers of water infrastructure that provides clean drinking water and can adequately handle sewerage and stormwater.

    Then this debate would never have arisen…

      • Andrew. – Don’t you dare blame the rate payers for incompetent local politicians when time after time the whole populace elects dodgy pollies who let everyone but their cronies down, and who can rarely see past the current electoral cycle.

    • True…buy change that to “If only all politicians and Wellington bureaucrats had shown they could be trusted with…well anything” then are you jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire?

    • Yes, I agree. The council’s have failed because they did not invest in infrastructure as they should have, and apparently are not planning on doing so for the future either. Let’s not forget that people have died and thousands got sick in one district, and plenty of water pollution everywhere from stormwater. So much for council’s responsibility to community, bit late to shut the door after the horse has bolted, it should never have got to that point. As Mahuta clearly says, the problem is systemic nationwide and a looming financial disaster for everyone who lives in a house on town supply. This is because councils do not spend what is required in their budgets on the infrastructure necessary to maintain the system. Too many council’s are poorly run and at the mercy of often incompetent local officials, one council has even gone bankrupt. Absolutely put it in the hands of professional people to ensure that the whole nation has access to clean water and put in robust systems to stop storm water pollution. I wish the government would do the same with electricity. Chris Trotter you are completely wrong in you analysis of Three Waters. Completely.

  5. This time I can agree with you entirely Chris.
    I also feel for the first time that Jacinda’s government could fall next election in spite of everything the main opposition party is doing to make itself as unattractive as anyone can imagine.
    It isn’t just the three waters concept that matters, more so it is the arrogance of the way it has been introduced to the public. First run past the public in a pretence of consultation, and then when the idea was roundly and thoroughly rejected, announcing that it is going ahead anyway.
    That should be electoral suicide on a matter of such fundamental significance.
    D J S

    • Very similar to Sir JK ant the National/ACT Coalition on the selling of State Assets despite the referendum saying NO ?

    • I agree with you, David, and feel this could well be the election loser. People are weary from the pandemic and are far less positive than they were and I don’t believe Jacinda will be able to save them this time. the 3Waters reform in its current state is so completely undemocratic it is breathtaking.

      • Mahuta’s reassurance that the 3 waters won’t be sold so invokes the memory of Richard Prebble saying exactly the same of the state Owned enterprises when they were created. We were assured the change was purely to place them in a more efficient corporate management structure.
        12 months later he was slinging off at anyone who couldn’t see that they were being prepared for sale.
        I would say it is possible that Mahuta will not herself be involved in the sale and may not even understand that this is what is going to happen, getting her to sell the move to her ethnic contemporaries could be an inspiration. Someone else will be in charge when the sale goes through. That’s how water is controlled everywhere else these days.
        D J S

  6. But Chris, Govt says 3 Waters will generate “6,000 to 9,000 jobs”! What’s not to like about 6-9K more bureaucrats?

    Govt also claims 3 Waters will “boost the economy by between $14b and $23b.” Alrighty! But how many houses was Kiwibuild going to produce??

    On a more serious note, my experience of working with one government department is that “partnership” with iwi effectively means iwi have power of veto – despite the government’s disingenuous denials. Iwi will gain control over NZ’s water, which is interesting considering that iwi are now corporations with commercial interests.

    • “Iwi are now corporations with commercial interests.”
      That sums it up perfectly PP 11.
      “Governing for all New Zealanders.” Where has that gone?

    • Now that the impact Maori has on New Zealand is the least possible, the treaty relationship is less vibrant. Under corona conditions, non Maori feel even more worn down, less industrious. Only now as non Maori fight off Maori ambition as a reminder that Maori have unlimited patience, time and will power where non Maori do not.

      Making Maori successful truely is David Parker’s ambition. Through him we will see the treaty shine. Those that oppose David Paker must use fear to keep the Maari’s in line.

      Only that campaigns driven by fear only generates overconfidence. There for democracies inevitable fate overshadows New Zealand’s largest little hundred year old democratic experiment.

      • I have no problem with empowering Maori and they should have a say in the 3Waters strategy, but their needs to be proportionate representation.

  7. Neoliberalism is the fastest way known to sabotage the lives of the general populace and transfer wealth to unelected sociopaths and elected sociopaths, whilst at the same time destroying the future of the nation.

    Now that all the easily-extracted resources have been extracted and the infrastructure left to decay for decades, the populace needs to be scared or bullied into the final phase of acquiescence to corporate power, as the ship goes sinks completely under the waves.

    With petrol having risen more than 40 cents per litre in a matter of months -and diesel, the backbone of the entire economy, up in price a commensurate amount- and with house prices at a preposterous (and completely unsustainable level) the writing is on the wall for the entire money-lender system.

    • Hopefully interest rates will stay around 3-4%, would be a buggar if they went back up to 7-8%.

      I was paying 18% back 1986-1987 if I remember rightly.

      • I took out a mortgage in 1983 at 11%, fixed by Muldoon.

        Once the LINO saboteurs got hold of the levers of power, the 11 went to 12, then 14, then 16, then 18, then 22%.

        A personal loan on a vehicle was at 28%.

        We will undoubtedly witness rapid devaluation of money in the system, now that the terminal resources and environmental crisis is upon us and the only recourse the government has to prop things us in the short term is digital money-printing.

        • Bollocks. I bought a house a year before you did: inflation was high; costs rose quickly, but so did salaries. I reckon I paid my house off more quickly and easily back then than people can now.

          Wages went up with inflation. I know – I was there. I am tired of frightening rubbish about the terrible effects of inflation.

          In fact, I am beginning to suspect that it was the rich who were losing out, and set up this myth about how evil inflation was.
          I came through all that inflation with no complaints at all.

          • Possibly export tariffs fall into the same camp as the evils of inflation. Seems like ‘evil’ export tariffs were a way to stop overseas exploiters and inferior products and services being dumped on overseas markets…. Now we have sold off our exports assets like farms overseas, don’t use local labour for the most part, and now can’t afford to purchase our own products like wood and cheese.

  8. A very good article, I liked the political background that we don’t find anywhere else. However, it would be good if everyone writing about this could explain a little bit about the actual proposed governance structure. It’s definitely missing from the MSM reporting and is a critical part of the objections around ownership and democracy. There is also an elephant in the room that seems to be taboo.
    As you pointed out the Havelock North issue which is being so widely mentioned had a good resolution which is never mentioned. Most water in NZ is potable, it’s the infrastructure and waste that has issues.
    Why doesn’t Govt. set up a funding stream for councils if they are so determined to throw money at the issue? It could be added to council water rates funds and the lot separated into an accountable area of it’s own. Information source below.

  9. lol, everything, and above all that between Labour and National NZ has lost quite a few of its assets to no discernable profit to the user. But surely the government will create a protection agency to protect the consumer from goverment over reach. Right?
    Besides, do you feel financially comfortable enough to afford water in the near future? Do you? lol.


    This is the unbelievable shit we have lived through in our village. Thank God for the three waters.!!!!!
    Next; do something about the body corporate system, it is a sick joke, especially where I live.
    Think of the biggest village idiots on drugs gang running as a pack to keep control of running stuff you pay for. With no oversight at all right down to caught out fraud. With no help from the police to stop any of it. At least the big stuff will be taken off them and the squid games can stop.

  11. Three Waters makes very good sense so I am happy that Nanaia is both sensible and brave .
    Try and make any change in Local Government and there is always a barrage of No no no.
    I live in Auckland but do not support the view that Watercare is the solution to Auckland’s
    future water.

    • Jeez Dot, you’re very happy about getting watercare v.2.0 (now with less oversight)?

      This 3 waters system is supposedly modelled on “Scottish Water’…which the briefest of online searches reveals is a way to have ‘competition without privitisation’. In other words, residential users will have choices, commercial/agricultural users will be able to shop around for ‘service providers’. Each ‘entity’ will be a funder, with private suppliers. Classic David ‘Tina’ Parker.

  12. I worked for the Mt Eden Borough in the 1970,s. Combined sewage and stormwater fed into a creek near St Lukes’ shops whenever it rained. They had screens to remove toilet paper. In the filing room found files showing they had been talking about it for 50 years. The solution another 50 years later is they are now building a giant tunnel to Mangere which will store this polluted water and I suppose to treat it and discharge it into Manukau harbour. The salary plus golden handshakes of the head of watercare could have been paid to install separate s/w pipes.

    • There you go! This is rife in council’s the nation over. Hurrah for Three Waters, the sooner the better.

  13. Havelock North: 4 deaths and many illnesses.
    Auckland: Beaches contaminated with raw sewage.
    Dunedin: Toxic lead in drinking water
    Christchurch: Under weight newborns due to contamination of ground water
    Wellington: daily water pipe explosions and raw sewage on city streets.
    The Provinces: Boil water notices due to fecal contamination.
    NZ rivers: degrading
    I guess the Govt should adopt the The national party policy of ‘no problem here’.

  14. Chris Trotter Do you have any solutions to providing communities with clean water, NO.
    Well a group of people qualified to do so have spent significant time on this and
    Three Waters is the worthy result.
    It is easy to write no no no populist stories .

    • Yeah. Local government interest rates are at least 3x higher than central government simply because old people vote for cheapness. It’s there own fault that central government must now secure New Zealand’s water resource. 🙂

    • There are other solutions that would be so much more democratic. Govt. could borrow funding and give it to those territorial authorities that need to bring their 3waters up to scratch, time limits in which to achieve that and supervision and guidance on the way that it has to be done. There will be the water assessor and there will be regulation so that should be comparatively easy to achieve. It would also be much more palatable to people of all political persuasions.

  15. I quite agree. The whole thing smacks also of preparedness for privatisation.

    Yet I found it amusing that you should present the EU in the good light of subsidiarity – the EU, a most remote and institutionally undemocratic and neoliberal institution!

  16. @ CT. Dead on the money.
    Everything. And I mean, everything’s a swindle in AO/NZ. Sure, it’s polite and lite and pretty and pink and clean and bleached and waxed but it’s all a fucking swindle.
    Everything we think of as being our ‘economy’ is derived from swindling’s.
    The very term ‘ Three Waters’ smacks, and in some cases, spanks ( Aye boys? ) of “Lets Do This” , ” Team of five million” etc… Glib, wanky nonsense which is stupid fucking brain fartery designed to penetrate the most cynical psychological defences.
    You mention [some] farmers as being dug in, and I paraphrase, like ticks into local body politics. Yes, they are. And they’re perhaps the very worst of the worst when it comes to traitors to our AO/NZ and their own neighbours and whanau.
    Interestingly I got more than upset when you placed a couple of those traitors on pedestals of ‘rough hewn’ farmer nobility. jimbo bolger, little billy english and I can’t remember? Did you also mention jenny shipley and ruth ( Little bit of sick) richardson? Ruthless ruth and her mother of all budgets? Which cut the feet off our agrarian infrastructure merely to enable legitimised crooks like fay/richwhite/pedophile brierly/ alan gibb/graham heart/chandler/eric watson etc and a number of other Kiwi-As aye boys? millionaires and billionaires literally steal money that should have returned to the farm gate of those whom they swindled to then be circulated back into rural and urban communities.
    Instead, though? Good farmer people watched on in dire debt while crushed under they tyranny of a corrupted IRD as their money disappeared off into the fucking tropics in the pockets of a very select few fat, lazy drunken brawlers, perverts and useless crooks.

  17. Out of all of the 71/69 regional councils across the motu with a collective debt of $11b.
    The chump change which has been offered up for a 40% share of all of the council’s water infrastructure.

    I’d be going back to the government with a counter-offer. ‘You’ cough-up more pingas or take over the entire debt because the government still has about $10b left of the first tranche of the $100b and it also has ok’d another $100b QE-Printing as well is expecting an $8b return in tax revenues because of inflation!

    It ain’t rocket science, it’s math.

  18. Question
    As councils will no longer need to spend on water treatment etc, will our rates be reduced?
    Also, I think many councillors should be happy they will be relieved of this burden, especially as the infrastructure in many parts of the country is run down and the cost upgrading is huge. They would need to sustantially increase rates and/or slash other projects, rather unpopular decisions.

  19. What happened in Boliva – centralising the water led to a 2% increase in poverty, death, and was eventually overturned.

    “The World Bank and the International Development Bank highlighted water privatization as a requirement for the Bolivian government in order to retain ongoing state loans.[1] Bechtel Corporation of the United States, offered a deal with the Bolivian government in order to privatize water and profit. Renouncing the deal was seen as unthinkable to the leaders who felt pressure to keep the trust of international investors, as the economic crisis in Argentina was partly caused by a loss of credibility with international bankers.[2]

    Many of the poorest neighborhoods were not connected to the network of water systems, and paid even more for lower quality water from trucks and handcarts. Cooperative wells were built before the privatization could be expanded on and taken over by the Bechtel subsidiary at the expense of those who used the well and who had already paid for the existing structure.[2]

    In early 2000, protests against the raised price of water due to privatization had been growing, and martial law was declared. In April 2000, Víctor Hugo Daza, a seventeen-year-old student, was shot in the face by the Bolivian Army while protesting the increase of local water rates due to privatization. The man who killed him, Captain Robinson Iriarte, was trained as a counter-insurgent in the United States; he was acquitted of all responsibility for the murder in 2002. No civilian criminal-justice system would take the case on, so a military tribunal had final jurisdiction. Upon his acquittal, he was promoted to major.[2]

    Thousands of people captured the central plaza in Cochabamba and surrounded the fountain where Daza’s body lay. Protestors comprised peasant irrigators, retired factory workers, union members, pieceworkers, sweatshop employees, street vendors, students from the University of Cochabamba, coca-leaf farmers and residential children.[2]

    It is argued that the privatization process did little to address water access and that the increase in water prices following such measures was met by an approximate 2% increase in levels of poverty.[5]

    Following two popular uprisings against water privatization, the first in Cochabamba in April 2000 and the second in La Paz/El Alto in January 2005, the two concessions were terminated. In the latter case, Aguas de Illimani was replaced by the public utility Empresa Pública Social de Agua y Saneamiento (EPSAS).

    The public water utility came under some criticism in 2008 due to water shortages, accounting errors, tariff increases and poor disaster preparedness. Consequently, representatives of the La Paz neighborhood association announced their intention to create their own service provider.[6]

    • And not just Bolivia, it has happened right across the developing countries. Losing control of water is the most evil thing that can happen in a region and a huge argument for making sure water stays local.

      You want to see poverty and disease? Give away control of the water to some large entity who wants to profit from it (And 3 Waters will be no different, call it a redistribution of wealth if you will but you can be sure the NZ households spending an extra $1500/year wont be benefitting in direct proportion).

  20. This should be a lot simpler but Labour love complicated, centralised bureaucracy.

    How about the Idiot Intellectuals (not so much intellectual though) follow a much simpler plan, something like this:

    – government mandates strict water quality standards, with various punishments for failing to follow through
    – government borrows at it’s exceptionally low rate, lends the money to Council’s at 0% interest but ring fenced for water upgrades
    – money must be paid back over time but it’s not a money making scheme for Government (unlike say the Power companies)
    – government slightly reforms water authorities that already exist (e.g. Watercare in Auckland) or establishes them at Councils where they are still part of the Council
    – reforms include: Council has majority representation on governance bodies but Government gets a representative, also have a citizen on these bodies too, to give some voice for the people
    – water bodies must create a credible plan to deliver to the new standards, and plans need to follow same structure and logic e.g. assessment of current assets including spatial asset plan, future state design, asset migration and management plan to achieve future state, etc
    – Government could optionally tap industry and overseas/local expertise to create an advisory body that provides design and implementation services to water bodies to help get compliant (especially useful for small towns)
    – Government monitors progress of plans to targets, reports made publicly available

    There, not so hard. Solves the balance sheet issues, and water quality issues without the nightmare of centralised bureaucracy that is accountable to no one but a wet dream for Wellington twitterati.

    • I couldn’t agree more, nukefacts. Your proposal is more parsimonious, and wouldn’t expose us to privatization of the water supply. But I suspect the government’s real agenda isn’t about water quality, it’s about handing over control to iwi. He Puapua in action.

  21. Rubbish Chris.

    We tried subsidiarity in the 19th century when it was called the ‘pork barrel’. The gentry used its control of local and central govt to grab land, roads, rail, energy, and water for themselves.
    We are still living in the same system. Business controls both local and central government.
    There is no local subsidiarity other than the heavy hand of centralism. It is delusional to put up a utopian localism against the reality of centralism.
    The real question is who controls the centre. Is it delegated power from from the masses or the entitled power of the ruling class?
    Clearly the latter.
    There is no ‘democracy’ at any level in NZ as the Canterbury Regional Council debacle demonstrated.
    Water is the the liquid gold and already subject to widescale privatisation – cockies and China.
    I endorse the push by Maori and their supporters to put it under direct central state control.
    The debate around this will reveal what dirty interests are at stake.
    In the same way that Covid has stripped bare the conflicting interests within the team of 5 million.
    Yet there would have been no Covid response without central state.
    Nor will there be democratic change locally where business if firmly in control.
    So long term, in a country of 6 million, which equals a large suburb in say Sao Paulo, or Shanghai, central is still very local.
    Lets see the gentry and big business forced to concede some control over water in the face of equal rights of access to clean 3 waters that restore the ecology and biological diversity, not subject to privatisation and naked profitability.
    This is the first and only policy option that takes climate change seriously coming out of this government.
    Lets fight for it and in the process realise what it takes to bring about real democracy in Aotearoa.

    • There is much truth in what you say, Dave. (What’s more, if you read the post carefully, you will discover that I agree with you.)

      The problem, as you say, lies in the degree to which “the people” are able to exercise genuine control and oversight over the four proposed “Entities”.

      As currently configured, “Three Waters” is just another installment in the ongoing saga of wholesale asset theft. Communal resources will be taken from the people who need and use them and placed in the hands of corporate bodies exercising “professional governance”. Popular oversight is thus rendered impossible.

      In other words: Neoliberalism.

      Don’t you think the sort of socialist “Three Waters” you favour would have been introduced and shaped in an entirely different – i.e. democratic – fashion? If the state begins the process deceitfully, manipulatively and under the control of elites, what are the chances that whatever it comes up with will reflect the deceitful, manipulative and elitist circumstances of its birth?

      Pretty strong, I would say. And so it has proved.

      And here’s another question for you? In a socialist society would the principle of subsidiarity be recognised? Or would everything be decided at the centre?

      • The current water system has all the watermarks of colonialism.
        The grabbing of resources by those in power – the gentry and international capital. Is it no different under today’s neo-colonialism.
        What happened to ECan shows that in NZ centralism rules over localism. The regional democracy that attempted to stem the tide of cows sucking up and poisoning river waters was smashed by National’s centralism.
        So local democracy is a myth since as soon as it does not serve the interests of the ruling class government steps in to smash it.
        My point is that this neoliberal Govt is claiming to be fixing water and locking in public ownership. It is promising more than what we have now. Therefore we have to fight to make it work and resist it when it doesn’t.
        To the extent that it lies and doesn’t deliver then and only then will the real local fightback against ruling class dirty politics happen and its focus will not be illusory local democracy but democratising centralism.
        Which brings us back to the question of how do we win socialism in this country?
        My answer is: by exposing class rule and building a mass working class party with a revolutionary program to fight for survival socialism.

        • Unfortunately the fight for socialism or even the fight for any kind of survival, is bitterly opposed by those who wish to exploit the NZ populace and the NZ resources and environment for short term gain.

          The great deceit machines of government propaganda and the ridiculous narratives delivered 24/7 by the mainstream media have captured such a large portion of the populace they actually vote for their own impoverishment and their extermination.

          With the entire financial-economic system on the brink of collapse, we will witness extraordinarily ‘challenging times’ over the next few years.

      • The ratepayers have absolutely no control of their water now, so I personally don’t see the problems mooted by so many people disagreeing with the 3Waters policy. Councils are democratically elected , however with such a small voting base these councils don’t really have a mandate to do anything controversial other than increase rates every year So without this water change what are these councils actually going to do to fix the ever increasing infrastructure problems of dirty drinking water, dirty rivers, dirty beaches exploding sewer pipes the list goes on and all this with climate change already making its mark on flooding and drought.

        • Don’t forget our councils up and down the councillors try are also giving away our pristine water to the water bottling companies for mere pennies. We have two in our region and a 3rd has also tried to get consent. The council trotted out – “they promote employment”, yes but minimum wage casual employment. And have these companies offered anything to our town – absolutely nothing.

    • Your ideological blinkers are getting in the way. Yes, reform is needed, no argument with that. But the “partnership” with iwi is a step on the way to privatization.

      My experience of working with one government department is that “partnership” with iwi effectively means iwi have power of veto – despite the government’s denials. Iwi will gain control over NZ’s water, which is interesting considering that iwi are now corporations with commercial interests.

  22. Before another coup on taxpayer assets that makes everything worse and takes up resources, perhaps the government should bother to investigate their own bodies such as environment court, MBIE and their environmental watchdogs first, to work out why water quality is declining! It’s pretty obvious, why! And most roads led to government entities and instructions to keep building no matter what the environmental impacts, not councils!

    Environment watchdog has never brought a prosecution

    Protesters are vowing direct action in southern waters after oil giant OMV was yesterday cleared to drill up to 10 exploration wells off the Otago coast beginning this summer.

    EPA’s ‘inappropriate’ reaction to student’s speech

    Was former EPA chief scientist Jacqueline Rowarth muzzled?

    Palm oil giant Wilmar goes to full control of Goodman Fielder

    EPA grants drilling and discharge consent for Otago coast to oil and gas company OMV

    Appeals against Chinese water bottling plant dismissed

    Harbour of doubt: The tiny creek that drains Auckland of its waste
    “St Lukes mall, one of the single biggest contributors of sewage into Meola, and likely among the biggest overflow points in the country.”

    NZ Government Secretly Funded Water Bottling Companies

    “A dam illegally constructed in an Auckland Council reserve is set to be lowered before Christmas, but not removed

    The impact of an illegally-constructed dam has been described by the Environment Court as “critical” for New Zealand’s most endangered bird but its removal will be a slow process, with the company which built it unlawfully setting most of the terms.”

    State of the Gulf: Auckland Council report finds estuaries choking in sediment, shellfish dying

    • “most roads led to government entities and instructions to keep building no matter what the environmental impacts, not councils!”

      There is a fair bit of inconsistency around the country as to how water is managed. Is that not an indication that it is a local government problem, including regional councils.

      It is also interesting that Hamilton City’s water management, at least from a consumer’s point of view, is well run and yet Hamilton City Council is in favour of Three Waters.
      Hamilton has a steady supply of water and a big enough rate payer base to support good infrastructure and yet it would like to wash its hands of water management.

      • And the next government or crisis, will sell it or part privatise. Look at power, completely out of control for price gouging and failing to meet emission targets.

        Councils decisions are overturned by the environment court, the laws are government run. Supercity was the brainchild of ACT and National.

        We see time and time again, Labour starts the ball rolling with various woke considerations, then they are voted out, and National after having Labour doing the heavy hitting for neoliberalism, sells it off.

        • I’m afraid you’re right. This could happen again with water.
          I wonder which is worse as at the moment, vested interests are doing a lot of damage.

          The government could simply provide extra funding for upgrades to infrastructure along with introducing standard operating procedures and audit system to standardise across all councils if not already existing.
          Perhaps they don’t trust councils to spend the money appropriately.

  23. In Auckland we have been paying a fortune for years for fancy marketing and $600k+ executive salaries for water when they separated it into a private company in a public company name, aka Watercare a Council Controlled Organisation that the council don’t seem to control.

    Since then prices for water have sky rocketed and service and quality has declined. It would be better to put water back into the council and have better policy around water – not do nothing but centralised and re-sell and market government water for 2023, rather than what needs to be done, and can be done now.

    In Auckland they also put the petrol tax on Aucklanders and raised a lot of money, but failed to spend it on new public transport like rail.

    Instead they ‘renovated’ the bus terminals and shut them down while they renovated them, causing more congestion and less service for public transport.

    It’s like sending people a message, not to trust public transport in Auckland. Anyway now Covid, no congestion and no money, so they will be moaning about that next.

    Which proves the point, when you revenue gather for something that is for a public good, it incentivises the revenue gatherers to keep polluting and not solve the problem.

  24. All Labour are doing is pissing people off and making our water infrastructure easier for National to privatize and sell off. Instead of 70 odd councils to deal with, they will have four entities under the Three Waters framework to deal with. Well done Labour, another own goal.

  25. Someone might enlighten me but where are the socialist governments world wide many here would love to see. I feel the best we can hope for is a socially aware government. It could from the right or left if you removed the extremists on both sides. This is an unusual government in that it’s tried to do the right thing but is completely incapable of achieving it. Andrew made the point that if the council’s had the right people this situation wouldn’t have happened and of course he’s right. Typically councils are no different from government. They’re made up of two types of people. The ones who would like to make a name for themselves and maintain their advantage in life and those who genuinely want to make a difference. Either way most of them aren’t qualified or have the knowledge to make meaningful change. Somehow we have to find better people at a local level. In our small country of 5 million almost impossible. I believe the government had to become involved with the water but this scheme has a whiffy smell about it. The moral high ground of involving Maori Iwi might be acceptable to me if the political advantages and potential votes weren’t so obvious. In the end it’s people. Are the people in this government capable of administering a two tiered health system and the water care for the whole country. No. Nationals answer would be to wave a stick at council’s and demand they do better and that won’t work either. Governments need to help councils in smaller areas both financially and with administration. In larger areas a more realistic connection with local councils in an advisory capacity might be helpful. The way this government is moving seven out of ten people will work for the huge bureaucratic nightmare with three out of ten actually producing something. I think this government thinks that’s how to grow the economy.

  26. The only thing I’m uncomfortable with this model is the way the governors etc will be appointed. I think a preferred model would be for each of the entities’ boards to be appointed by the councils within the geographic area, and potentially appointing someone from the council to sit on the board. Perhaps each region elects the board members of their region’s water entity. Some work would need to be done to ensure the board was on a per capita basis representative of their communities.

    Many regions already have water entities working across water infrastructure in that area. Auckland has Watercare, Wellington has Wellington Water. I have no idea how their Governance model works, but 3 Waters seems to be an extension of that process.
    The reality is so many local councils have neglected their water infrastructure for so long and its the rate payers that suffer. They cut the water budget back so that they can avoid hiking rates and can build vanity projects.

    I’d also like them to ensure that these bodies can not be privatised no matter what. Because the reality is it is easier to sell off 4 entities than 60, and I think the first thing National would do when they next come into office would be to sell it off, and that would be a total disaster.

  27. thank goodness that when Chris Trotter drinks some water from the tap, gets sick and dies, he will at least go to his grave with the knowledge that a complaint (on his behalf) will be made to the local council. Viva local democracy! Just more of the same rubbish he was spewing at the peace power and politics conference back in the 1980’s. When I asked him (way back then) what direct or indirect action he was taking in his battle with Bolgers finance ministers austerity program, he just looked at me blankly and said I was in the wrong workshop. Shades of the Monty Pythons ‘I’m here for an argument’ skit.

    • Given that I was an invited speaker to that conference, my assumption was that the organisers’ reckoned that, as the publisher and editor of a left-wing magazine, NZ Political Review, I was doing my bit to advance the cause of progressive politics in New Zealand.

      Strangely, I don’t remember you, or your question, 6’4″. Oh course, your real name might help to jog my memory.

      No? Didn’t think so.

  28. Councils will only end up handing their water assets over the multinationals if nothing changes. Some of them already have, using very complicated leasing and contact arrangements.

    I don’t trust anyone on this quite frankly.

    • Pretty simple and cheap for the government to put a law in to stop councils selling public assets and make sure that it is illegal to do so, unless Dave Parker has already dictated the terms for the council utility sales in the TPPA!

  29. Um VTNZ is now 60% German owned. Nobody noticed that one did they? Veolia is all over the place and french or israeli owned. Good article thank you Mr T.

  30. I thought I was going to agree with all of this – until the last couple of Paras about “neoliberalism” and the lack of socialism in the plan. What? Surely you realise that subsidiarity is the antithesis of central planning, and central planning is the essence of socialism and communism (and the inherent weakness in those systems). Decision making is best when it resides closest to the information feedback source. That is one (of many) reasons why Three Waters is a bad idea. But it is why all centrally planned ideas tend to fail.

  31. Nania Muhuta is a shoe in for the OIA. You know, the people who rubber stamp every and all foreign takeover of n z assets. The Labour Govt love anyone who is silly enough to do their dirty work for them. Like Eugaine Sage and the Greens during the last term.

  32. The scandal of millions of Americans deprived of running water

    Privitising water so it is not a free, public good, but bought, given away and sold by industry.

    The fight to stop Nestlé from taking America’s water to sell in plastic bottles

    Coca-Cola sucking wells dry in indigenous Mexican town – forcing residents to buy bottled water
    Bottling plant ‘consumes more than a million litres of water a day’

    Coca-Cola Charged With Groundwater Depletion and Pollution in India

    The company admits that without water it would have no business at all. Coca-Cola’s operations rely on access to vast supplies of water, as it takes almost three litres of water to make one litre of Coca-Cola. In order to satisfy this need, Coca-Cola is increasingly taking over control of aquifers in communities around the world. These vast subterranean chambers hold water resources collected over many hundreds of years. As such they the represent the heritage of entire communities.

    Chinese company approved to run water mining operation in drought-stricken Queensland

    IN NZ

    Consent granted for Chinese water bottling giant to purchase Otakiri Spring

    Chinese water bottling plant’s proposal to take water from Whakatane aquifer ‘sustainable’, court hears

    Canterbury water on way to Chinese market as bottling plant starts production

    Whakatane locals outraged on government’s encouragement of Chinese water bottling investment

    NZ Government Secretly Funded Water Bottling Companies

  33. 3 Waters would no doubt have branch offices, the personnel of which would be in touch with their local communities.

  34. What happened to our regional fuel tax another idea to solve problems which it hasn’t solved, it has not produced more trains and emission free public transport options, it’s sitting in a bank, while councils cry poor, take the money from families who can’t afford it!

    Apparently the surplus has occurred because over the last three years Council has received $454 million in RFT but only paid out $199 million for designated transport projects.

    (More than half of revenue not used).

    Meanwhile, funding in the reserve is being used to fund other Council spending – including debt expenses – with no requirement to return money to the reserve with interest.

  35. Chris
    I’ve thinking about your question: what’s not to like? What’s that famous song….”It’s not what you do, it’s they way that you do.” Three waters may be necessary, even good, but how about the sheer fucking arrogance of this govt. The lies and pretences in promising us (defacto, the councils) options, when in truth they couldn’t give a fuck about how we (defacto, the councils) opted. They were never going listen anyway. That’s what’s not to like – the way this Labour govt operates…arrogant bastards, liars, spinners, bullshitters. Can’t trust a word that comes out of their mouths, starting with the leader of the pack.

  36. Good article Chris. There are several issues here. In terms of water quality and the Te Tiriti relationship the government has recently passed the Water Services Bill. The WSB makes it mandatory to provide safe drinking water. Previously there was a ‘as best as is practicable’ opt-out which is no longer there. This doesn’t just capture Councils. Under the Bill anyone who supplies reticulated drinking water to people other than family/ their own dwelling is captured. So a farmer providing reticulated water to farm cottages is captured it seems. There is also a new regulatory body – Taumata Arowai – established. They are mandated to operate from a te ao Māori perspective
    The Taumata Arowai board will comprise 5-7 members and their collective experience, knowledge and capability must include:
    (a)the compliance, monitoring, and enforcement activities of regulatory agencies; and
    (b)public health, particularly in relation to the objectives and functions of Taumata Arowai; and
    (c)the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and its principles; and
    (d)perspectives of Māori and tikanga Māori; and
    (e)performance monitoring and governance.
    Taumata Arowai will also have a Maori Advisory Group.
    So one could argue that, with the Water Services Bill requiring all drinking water suppliers to have to provide safe drinking water, why does the task have to be taken away from Councils? The government would argue that some Councils can’t meet the cost or borrow enough to undertake the work and it requires the 4 large entities to have the resources to do that. I’m not sure that argument is totally convincing. The other issues are around cost, ownership, efficiency, ownership of assets, local versus centralised control. For me personally I’m not convinced by all the arguments put forward and this is a much more contestable space. I certainly can’t see how it will not cost ratepayers more but maybe that’s another post.

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