Three Waters: Bill passes first reading

The first reading passed with 77 votes in favour, and 42 votes opposed. File photo.

The first piece of legislation putting in place the government's three waters reforms has passed its first reading in Parliament.

New Zealand's drinking, waste and storm water management will go into the hands of four new council-owned water entities, instead of 67 councils.

The Water Services Entities Bill is the piece of legislation that establishes the four entities. At least one more bill will follow, transferring the assets and setting up consumer protections.

"We're taking decisive action to ensure all communities have safe, affordable, and sustainable drinking water services, along with stormwater and wastewater networks that meet our environmental and cultural expectations," says Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta.

She acknowledges there has been fierce opposition to the reforms.

"It is unsurprising, given the scale of these reforms, that they have generated much debate. There have been requests to stop the reforms, and go back to the drawing board. But we have been talking about these problems for the past twenty years. It's time for action."

The bill incorporates recommendations made by the government's working group.

Councils are to be divided among four regional water service entities, and each get one share in their entity for every 50,000 people in their area, with a minimum of one share for every territorial authority.

The first reading passed with 77 votes in favour, and 42 votes opposed.

Green party MP Eugenie Sage spoke in favour.

"Sticking with the status-quo doesn't recognise that we need change," she says.

The party has some concerns, which Sage hopes will be ironed out in select committee.

"A lot of the contracts that are currently contracted out by councils to smaller contractors within their communities, there's no protection for that."

The government's majority meant the bill was always going to pass. Both National and ACT said they would repeal the legislation if they formed a government.

National's local government spokesperson Simon Watts warns Labour it could hurt them in next year's election.

"This bill was a 134 page severance letter to Labour's back bench."

Mana whenua and councils will be given an equal number of seats on a representation group which sets the entities' strategic direction. They won't have operational control, but will appoint board members to the water service bodies.

The co-governance model has drawn the majority of the opposition's ire.

"People shouldn't have a seat at the table just because of who their grandparents are," says ACT's local government spokesperson Simon Court.

Watts says it will not mean improving the infrastructure.

"The reality in this bill is when you strip everything away, this is about pipes in the ground. Kiwis want those things to deliver, and co-governance will not help us to achieve that goal. Pipes do not differentiate based on race."

A number of councils also vehemently oppose the legislation, with three district councils going to the High Court.

The Timaru, Waimakariri and Whangārei District Councils say the move will take away their assets without fair compensation, and remove democratic accountability.

The reforms are also opposed by farming group Groundswell - although co-founders Laurie Paterson and Bryce McKenzie admitted they had not actually read the legislation.

The bill will now go through the Select Committee process.

-RNZ.




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5 Comments

maybe read the legislation first...

Posted on 11-06-2022 15:33 | By This Guy

Was reading about some people protesting this bill, when asked what it was they didn’t like about it they admitted they hadn’t actually read the legislation they were just against it... Wonder how many of the people complaining here have actually read it (I’m guessing not a lot considering whats been written here is totally wrong) Also wasn’t it only a few months ago when we had a hosepipe ban that people were loudly moaning about how the useless local council has completely mismanaged our water supply for years...

@ Mystic101.......I reckon......

Posted on 10-06-2022 20:39 | By groutby

.....I would like to hear who is poisoning our water, do share with fact please and reasoning as to why ’3 waters’ is going to stop this, and I do agree that quality of supply is so important so perhaps you could tell why it is important to have 50% Maori control of this valuable asset, have Maori greater knowledge that know one knows about?....I would suspect ( particularly as valueless shares will be issued) there is really another agenda at play here. Have you inside knowledge?

Clean water

Posted on 10-06-2022 13:45 | By Mystic101

Good, the only way to stop people and businesses from poisoning our water is 3 waters. Wirh something this important we will need oversight that is accountable. Only the dodgy don’t want your kids to have access to clean water.

bill

Posted on 10-06-2022 09:01 | By dumbkof2

mahuta will have her way. is there any way we can stop her.

Vote them out

Posted on 10-06-2022 07:55 | By Kancho

Three waters has no public mandate but has been deliberately kept quiet for years and being forced through . Had they been up front in their first term of government they would not have got a second term. This needs to be corrected at the next election . It’s theft and it’s racist. Some councils need help not more layers of spending on layers of bureaucracy that absorb funding but do nothing where it counts. Many councils will get nothing as their systems are good but they will lose billions of dollars in assets. Councils with problems in funding need funding which would be a lot less that is proposed by the so called reform set up and extra talkers not doers .

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