An insult to our intelligence

Re: ‘Getting real about Three Waters’ Labour List MP Angie Warren-Clark’s column (The Weekend Sun, May 20).

Angie Warren-Clark’s column on May 20 is a master class in obfuscation. She declares cost figures for the future water services some 29 years in the future…what? Then pulls a “rabbit out of the hat” that under Three Waters it would be considerably cheaper. What an insult to our intelligence. 

Councils do have experienced and professional people running water services. The problem is purely money and how much ratepayers can afford against the ever-increasing costs of infrastructure replacement, in some cases, pipes laid a century ago.  But understandably, ratepayers’ pockets are not bottomless. The Government has stated in their philosophy that they have substantial capital for their Three Waters experiment and it makes far more sense for the Government to provide this finance for the councils to do this themselves. The council engineers know their locality and are far more competent to provide the quality and infrastructure upgrades necessary than the Government. 

The bureaucracy of Three Waters is to confiscate ratepayers’ assets and add a costly extra layer of a government-appointed administrative Board, with Maori having a 50 per cent share of voting. This is plainly undemocratic and the board’s composition affords no protection to council or ratepayers as to the competency of those elected.

David Hallett, Mount Maunganui.

Angie Warren-Clark replies: This reform has been in the pipeline for years, and is the result of four years of focused research, modelling and analysis from a range of international and local experts.

We’re not taking away local knowledge here, what we are aiming to take away are 21.4 per cent of water suppliers (serving more than 100 people) not complying with New Zealand’s drinking water standards, the 3385 reported overflows from sewerage networks in 2019-2020, and the reality that over 34,000 New Zealanders are estimated to get sick from our drinking water every year. We have to do better, and that’s why we’re supporting the regions.

The Government has agreed with the recommendations of the Three Waters Working Group to provide for a public shareholding that makes community ownership clear; no assets will be confiscated. Oversight from local councils ensures communities’ voices are heard.

The new publicly-owned entities will have the scale, funding flexibility, capability and operational efficiencies to finance and manage water services in a way that councils cannot. These larger entities will also be able to plan, develop and maintain the expertise and career paths of a larger and increasingly professional water sector workforce in a way that 67 individual councils cannot do.

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