Govt transferring water asset ownership to Ngāi Tahu

The Government is advancing plans to transfer 50 per cent of publicly-owned water assets in the South Island to Ngāi Tahu ownership, National Leader Judith Collins says.

Last Monday, the Department of Internal Affairs presented the Government’s preferred option for Three Waters reform to 23 mayors and South Island iwi. The proposal was to consolidate all water infrastructure across the South Island into one organisation.

This new Mainland water agency, which would assume ownership of all water assets and some council debt, was designed to be 50 per cent owned by Ngāi Tahu.

“This means councils that have invested ratepayer money in pipes, wastewater and drinking water facilities for decades would have these assets taken away,” Ms Collins says.

“Several mayors reached out to me after the meeting to express their profound concern. Needless to say this move would have far-reaching implications.”

This is yet another example of Labour adopting a view that the Treaty of Waitangi promises ‘dual-governance’ of core government services like drinking water, health and local government, Ms Collins says.

“Ngāi Tahu are a well-run organisation that may do a good job of managing this water infrastructure, but that is not the point here.

“The point is, Labour has now decided the Treaty requires separate systems of governance and fifty-fifty ownership of resources with iwi, and it is making these changes before having a national conversation about whether this is actually what the Treaty decrees.

“We’ve already seen these changes happen with Māori council wards and the proposed Māori Health Authority but similar reforms are imagined in resource management, the conservation estate, the justice system, Oranga Tamariki, and elsewhere.

“These changes can’t be rushed. The Government needs to pause all of this work and explain the full extent of its plans, and why it has adopted this new interpretation of the Treaty.

“If we are truly a Team of Five Million then the Prime Minister must have the courage to have this debate with all New Zealanders.”

National understand four mega-agencies, similar to Auckland’s Watercare, will be set up across New Zealand as part of the Three Waters proposal to manage water assets.

You can read a copy of the joint governance model for South Island water here.