“The Government has again shown that Three Waters is simply a trojan horse for more co-government, refusing to amend the legislation to allow all New Zealanders to have an equal say,” says ACT’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Court.

“While debating the Water Services Entities Bill today in Parliament, ACT put forward a series of amendments to ensure the legislation is clear, science-based and equal for all New Zealanders. Labour didn’t even want to discuss them.

“The legislation is based on the concept of Te Mana o Te Wai, which refers to the fundamental importance of water, and recognises that protecting the health of freshwater protects the health and well-being of the wider environment. This is unfortunately vague, is based on amorphous spiritual or moral concepts, and is open to endless litigation and judicial mischief.

“ACT proposed to replace the vague and amorphous definition with the definition from the Food Act, which has the objective "of keeping freshwater in a safe and suitable condition". Associate Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty only had one word for this common-sense amendment, “no”.

“Clause 141 of the Water Services Entities Bill allows iwi and hapu to submit Te Mana o Te Wai statements that must be considered in any decision making by the four water services entities, but other communities who have an interest in freshwater are unable to have the same input.

“ACT proposed to expand the submission criteria of Te Mana o Te Wai statements so anyone in the local community with an interest in the water can submit. Again, the Minister refused to even consider it.

“This is at odds with Minister Mahuta’s previous responses as to what Te Mana o Te Wai statements are for. She said they are “for the combined benefit of communities…”. If they’re for the benefit of communities, why are only certain people in the community allowed a say?

“There is no rationale for continuing to have co-government at the centre of water reforms. Nanaia Mahuta herself has admitted that “Māori have not expressed rights and interests in three waters assets over and above those as ratepayers within their respective communities of interest.”

“There are real problems with drinking water quality in some communities, failing wastewater networks and sewage overflows into rivers and onto beaches. None of these problems are solved by trying to force co-government structures on to a future three waters delivery model.

ACT’s Water Infrastructure Plan would:

• Provide for councils to enter voluntary “shared services” agreements, gaining the benefits of scale, while retaining local ownership and control

• Establish long term 30-year Central Government-Local Government Partnership agreements to plan water infrastructure upgrades tailored to specific regions

• Establish a Public-Private Partnerships to attract investment from financial entities such as KiwiSaver funds, ACC, iwi investment funds, etc.

• Expand the exemption from domestic supply for a single dwelling to also include all small water suppliers sup plying fewer than 30 endpoint users.

“We can improve the current system, but we don’t need to do so through state-mandated centralisation and allowing some people to have more influence than others based on their ethnicity.

“ACT’s plan will better balance community control of water assets alongside a plan for levelling up the necessary infrastructure to ensure safety and efficient water allocation.”

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Simon Court