Compulsory Three Waters model not off the table

Councils should be worried by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta refusing to guarantee they won’t be forced into the new water entities, National’s Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says.

“Despite saying from the start that the Three Waters reforms would be voluntary for councils, the Minister has repeatedly refused to rule out making them compulsory with councils forced to surrender local control of their assets.

“With Whangārei District Council pulling out of the reforms before they’d even got off the ground, Minister Mahuta is now clearly feeling the heat.

“This week she gave a vague threat in Parliament that councils should ‘think again’ about opting out, on the very same day her department revealed it had spent $3.5 million on an ad campaign maligning councils for their water management.

“It seems the Minister’s early promises that councils could opt-out were just lip service. If more councils continue to decide the model isn’t right for them and walk away, the entire reform programme falls into jeopardy.

“It’s not surprising councils have doubts – the benefits of the four entity model are not convincing.

“We’ve yet to hear how financial scale benefits are derived from networking assets across regions, or on either side of the Cook Strait. The new model would also create a convoluted, multi-layered governance structure that will erode public accountability – the fear expressed by several mayors including Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

“It must be for councils to decide how they do right by their communities.

“National agrees there are complex problems and we support a stronger water regulator with more power to set and importantly enforce standards.

“We believe we should be incentivising change where it is led locally and able to happen organically – not dictated by the Minister.

“National will continue to protect local accountability and strongly oppose the Labour Government’s centralisation and control agenda.”