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Wairoa Mayor onboard Mayor’s Consensus

consensus web

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little is one of 20 Mayors who has joined the Mayors of Auckland and Christchurch to bridge the divide on three waters.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown and Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger say it is time for consensus on three waters and are working to bridge the divide on three waters reform and deliver better, more affordable water services for Aotearoa, New Zealand.

They have a consensus plan to improve water management in New Zealand that can deliver all of the Government’s objectives for better, more sustainable water services and improved partnership with iwi-Māori, while protecting community voice and accountability.

The consensus already has support from Mayors throughout Aotearoa New Zealand representing the majority of the population, as well as a growing number of community groups and political parties.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown says it is time for the old divisive argument to end and for a new constructive conversation to begin to achieve consensus across New Zealand.

The principles of the Mayors’ Consensus are:

  • We support and endorse the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai.
  • We support the local ownership and control of water treatment and reticulation to ensure local accountability.
  • Ownership and management of stormwater assets should be retained by local councils to ensure clear management alongside transport and drainage assets.
  • We encourage local government entities to consolidate, where sensible, into Regional Water Organisations (RWOs) which would be unable to be sold outside local authority ownership.
  • Affordable finance should be provided to qualifying Three Waters asset owners to ensure high quality investment in these assets to provide a higher standard of water treatment.

The Mayors of Aotearoa New Zealand’s two biggest cities have put forward a joint proposal to make progress the divisive “three waters” issue and achieve consensus.

They are seeking support for their proposal to be considered and further developed by both central and local government as an alternative to the current plan, which has failed to achieve political consensus either within or between Parliament and local authorities.

The new proposal would maintain crucial aspects of central government’s existing plan, including the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai, while maintaining local ownership, control and accountability, and allowing for meaningful roles for mana whenua.

Regional Water Organisations (RWOs), which would be unable to be sold outside local authority ownership, would have access to investment capital through a new Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF), administered by central government’s own Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIPs), best known for its successful roll-out of ultra-fast broadband.

The degree of any formal co-governance over RWOs would be determined by each local community in consultation with mana whenua rather than by central government.

The Mayors said, everyone agrees tens of billions of dollars need to be invested over several decades to upgrade New Zealand’s freshwater, storm-water and waste-water infrastructure – and that requires maximum political consensus to deliver policy stability. ”As a nation, we need to find a way move forward in a positive and consensus manner - and stop the ugly and angry Three Waters debate that is dividing our country.”

The Mayors said recent local government elections had demonstrated that central government’s current proposal could never secure the necessary wide public support to be sustainable policy.

“Water assets are long-term community investments that deliver services for decades, and we can’t afford wild policy swings each central- or local-government election. Not everything in central government’s current plan is wrong, and we have included all the aspects of it that we believe can meet the all-important consensus test. Further refinement and development will be needed as we all work together towards a national consensus, with clear benefits to every community identified, understood and accepted.” 

Mr Little praised the proactive work of the Auckland and Christchurch Mayors and urged the government to listen to the additional practical approach being delivered through the Mayors on behalf of the majority of New Zealand’s population. “It is also important that we continue to acknowledge the work that has also been done by Communities 4 Local Democracy (C4LD), and I look forward strong advocacy from both these groups.”

25 November 2022

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