“The Labour Government’s obsession with adding race-based hierarchy to every piece of legislation has come to Three Waters,” says ACT’s Infrastructure Spokesperson Simon Court, “but will it fix our broken pipes and make our water safe to drink?”

“Under the Water Services Entities Amendment Bill, the powers awarded to the general population through “community priority statements” are far less than those awarded to local Māori through “Te Mana o te Wai statements”.

The Regional Representative Groups, which appoints the boards of the new Water Services Entities (WSE) “may consider” the Community Priority Statements as part of “any comments it makes” on the WSE’s planning and reporting documents.

“In contrast, WSEs must respond directly to Te Mana o te Wai statements and they “must include a plan that sets out how the water services entity intends... to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, to the extent that it applies to the entity’s duties, functions, and powers.”

“The obvious question is why the difference and what will that do to make water better? The answer is absolutely nothing. In fact, it may well lead to worse outcomes.

“Te Mana o te Wai are intended to “protect the mauri of the wai”. Mauri is not defined within the legislation, it is described as a te ao Māori concept that speaks both to the life energy that flows through all things and the interconnectedness of all things. It is spiritualism. It’s the same as waving crystals over the water to drive out evil spirits, and it’s truly bonkers.

“When I turn on my tap, don’t want to hope the ‘life energy’ of the water coming out won’t kill me. I want to know that science has been applied and that the water is safe to drink.

“The segregation and prioritisation of local Māori input into the provision of water infrastructure above that of the wider community is another government policy which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The addition of vague spiritual elements into the mix makes it worse. I do not understand why this government is creating an environment which does not deliver better outcomes and promotes division.

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