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Alternative three waters proposal presented

Three Waters

Mayors and CEs representing the 32 member councils of Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori (C4LD) have presented politicians with their plan for three waters reform.

The 10-point plan for reform was presented to the Minister for Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta and Department of Internal Affairs officials, as well as Green Party Co-Leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw, and Green MP Eugenie Sage. The group had already presented its models to opposition parties.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said the Wairoa District Council fully supports the Communities 4 Local Democracy proposal.

“This group is not against change, and we recognise that New Zealand’s three waters delivery needs a significant amount of work and investment, but we do not believe the government’s proposal is the right way forward.

“The proposals Communities 4 Local Democracy has brought to the table enable the Government to deliver on all its aims, create opportunities for strong and lasting partnerships and deliver safe, sustainable and affordable water services for all New Zealand.”

“All Councils in this group already have existing partnerships and governance arrangements with iwi Māori and we will be building on these partnerships as we progress forward.

“This group is disappointed with the way central government has engaged and consulted with communities and iwi over the three waters reform process so of course we want to bring communities and iwi with us on the Communities 4 Local Democracy journey.

“Wairoa has six iwi which will all have less than one percent say on the new three waters government proposed entity, as opposed to now where they have the opportunity to have significant input through partnerships and co-governance. The Communities 4 Local Democracy group is a voice for all New Zealanders who have indicated they oppose the Government’s three waters proposal and we are about enabling the voice of all our communities to be heard at a local level.

Manawatu District Mayor and C4LD Chair Helen Worboys said that the group is keen to work with all parties to ensure any reforms have the broad base of support needed for major long-term infrastructure investment.

“We’re confident that we’re in line with the majority of New Zealanders. We’ve presented a reform framework that is directly supported by nearly half of councils in New Zealand and is aligned with the views of the majority of other councils, most notably Auckland representing 1.7 million people.

“Unlike the Government’s reform proposal, which has proven so unpopular that it has to be mandated, our alternative framework is something that everyone can get behind.

“We’re talking about major changes to the ownership and running of long-term assets. These have been built up and paid for by generations of ratepayers, who have the reasonable expectation that they would remain in community control.

“Reform of this magnitude shouldn’t be rushed through Parliament in the face of massive public and sector opposition, and with the barest minimum of public engagement and scrutiny.

“We should be given the opportunity to use our local knowledge to deliver better alternatives to the current proposal, which independent analysis shows has a significant number of flaws.

“Just because the Government has the power to force through this reform doesn’t mean that it should. We need to collaborate to ensure the legislation reflects the needs of the whole community.

“It is not too late to rescue this reform.

“We are not that far apart in our objectives, what we are offering in our 10 point plan is an approach that we believe would achieve broad support.

“The whole local government sector is eager to partner and work with the Government to turn this around and find a lasting solution that we can all support,” said Helen Worboys.

C4LD’s 10 point proposal for compromise - supported by all members - reads:

  1. Foundation principle - community property rights in Three Waters assets are to be both respected and meaningful.
  2. The Government should agree to amend its current reform process and allow time for the revised approach to be reflected in draft legislation.
  3. With respect to investment decision-making, asset owners should actively seek to initiate authentic discussions with mana whenua at a local level that consider co-design and partnership arrangements that acknowledge and enable Te Tiriti based pathways at a local and regional level.
  4. In return, asset owners agree to commit to meeting health and environmental standards, once known, within an appropriate time frame.
  5. The regulatory framework should specify a “backstop” provision that identifies a set of circumstances which would justify future Crown intervention if an asset owner was not making acceptable progress towards meeting those regulatory requirements.
  6. Progress should be reported on annually by asset owners and be benchmarked across the sector.
  7. To further incentivise sector progress, a formal process might be established that requires an asset owner to prepare a plan that would map out the steps it proposes to take to meet the required standards in a financially viable and sustainable manner.
  8. A process to finance and allocate funds to areas that will require financial assistance be designed that is national in application and independently administered accordingly to objective and transparent criteria (this is consistent with the recommendation of the Productivity Commission in November 2019).
  9. This subsidy scheme will be designed to meet investment shortfalls until such time as sufficient progress has been made. At which point the scheme will cease and asset owners will finance matters on a business-as-usual approach.
  10. A sector-wide sector best-practice improvement process be created and membership made compulsory. (In a similar manner used to implement successfully the One Network Road Classification Framework and now One Network Framework in the road infrastructure area, and governed by Waka Kotahi and the Local Government Sector.)

21 April 2022

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