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3 Waters Reform Must Happen

Written By: - Date published: 5:22 pm, April 3rd, 2022 - 147 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, local government, Nanaia Mahuta, Politics, supercity, treaty settlements, water - Tags:

If you’re out there in ZB land and believe that water management should be democratically elected, you won’t find respite here.

The 3 waters are stormwater, drinking water, and wastewater. About 85% of this is currently managed by Councils. Of all those who do a generally good job, Auckland’s Watercare is the exemplar. But stormwater in Auckland has led to the near-death of the entire Hauraki Gulf inside a decade, and last year they failed to plan for water shortages so much they had to fire the Chief Executive and replace the Board.

Watercare is well and truly the best example, and they are a failure. I didn’t need to mention Wellington Water’s utterly disgusting co-managed mess or Dunedin Council’s poisoning-by-neglect since they are utter disasters far far worse than the current best. Water management needs a comprehensive change in New Zealand.

As reported by RNZ:

About 8000 people were infected by campylobacter contamination centred in Havelock North in 2016, leaving at least four dead and others permanently disabled, leaving thousands sick and costing the local health board more than $760,000.

This prompted the government to take a long, hard look at water services and how they were being delivered across New Zealand, the result being a proposed programme of reform which would see water management taken from New Zealand’s 67 councils, and handed to four big regional entities.

In recent years too, Wellington has seen sewage bubbling up in the streets, and in Auckland storms have regularly led to beach closures due to sewage overflows. Drinking water supplies across New Zealand are inconsistently managed and often needs boiling.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said it was unacceptable that every year about 34,000 people in New Zealand fell ill from drinking water, and thousands of households were required to boil their water to drink it safely.

Reports from the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, reviewed by engineering firm Beca, suggest between $120 billion and $185 billion is needed over the next 30-40 years to get water systems across the country up to standard.

The people that caused the issue in the first place, the Hawkes Bay Councils, admitted in September 2020 that they had done such a poor job of investing in the system that overwhelming rates bills and crippling debt would occur if the water problems were not fixed.

Last year a new independent water regulator, Taumata Arowai, was established. And Minister Mahuta released the model for four entities to regulate it all.

Lots of councils oppose it. To sweeten it, the government offered councils $2.5bn to opt into the reforms, aiming to leave no council worse off from the reforms and ensure consensus.

In September 2021 the Water Services Bill passed, handing drinking water regulation from Ministry of Health to Taumata Arowai and strengthening drinking water regulations, including with increased penalties. Most councils appear to be against the reforms going ahead. Dunedin Council recently decided to take is mana whenua relationship seriously rather than follow the masses.

Suppliers already registered with the Ministry of Health – mostly councils – have a year to comply with the new requirements.  Those who are not have four years register with Taumata Arowai, and seven years to get their show together.  Local Government New Zealand supported the idea.

There are also plans for a second regulator, which would act as a financial watchdog to reduce the risk of underspending on water while still aiming to keep costs down. Yes there is room for improvement in the water price regulator, but it’s time we had one. It’s time to price and hence minimise what we use, as we do with other precious resources.

So much of the current argument comes down to ownership, not outcomes. That is, the right wants to drag this into an argument about which kind of elite gets the director fees around the table. Don’t be fooled into trying to find a principle more noble than that.

Almost all New Zealand rivers running through urban and farming areas (95-99%) carry pollution above water quality guidelines. 90% of our wetlands have declined. 76% of our freshwater species are threatened. About 30% of our available freshwater goes to Auckland and another 30% goes to irrigating and the diary industry. Local government and regional government is responsible for this death of our land.

If you stand on top of the Turitea Ridge above Palmerston North, there’s just one single patch of forest left all the way to the sea: Turitea water catchment. For the tens of thousands of hectares you can see on a clear day of 90% intensive dairying, that last patch of a few dozen hectares is the final holdout for the last stand of skinks and native birds across the entire land until you get to the little circle of Taranaki National Park. If you walk along the banks of Palmerston North’s Manuwatu River at dawn, you will hear not a single native bird. All you will smell is cowshit. Of the 650 water catchments in New Zealand, less than 10 contribute any meaningful conservation effort. They confine themselves just to the provision of drinking water. That is what local government has done to our water. OUR water. It’s time to get angry and strip it off them.

It’s the same sight from every ridge in New Zealand. Local governments, formed over the last 150 years, have generally enabled our forest destruction and the industrialisation of our entire landscape for the thirstiest form of agricultural industry: dairy. Forests burnt, native species reduced to sponsored corporate life support in national parks and a few tiny fenced enclaves. That is the fault of local government failing to regulate and punish the desecraters. It’s time to take water management off them.

Local government is the kind of government that should have protected our water and our land. It didn’t. It was a colonial enabler from day 1. Hot on the heels of Cameron and Chute were Russell, McVeigh, Bartleet, Nathan, and Campbell.

While councils largely agree investment is needed, most still oppose the government’s reforms. Even the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, despite having to fire the entire governance structure of Watercare a year ago, opposes it. On his watch hundreds of our Kauri in our water catchments died, our trees were cut down by the tens of thousands, our gulf marine species died, our streams got worse and there’s not a major fresh water source for anything north of Albany despite the growth of tens of thousands of houses.

Councils have spent years, and huge sums in ratepayer funding, building and maintaining their water infrastructure assets. Whether elected like Wellington or unelected like Tauranga, each stream and river and lake has got worse and worse, more shit pumped and spilled into harbours, more fresh water sold for penance overseas. Local and regional government did this to us. Central government often enabled them, until Minister Mahuta came along.

While Minister Mahuta has repeatedly said there would be public ownership of these systems, the documentation shows the four new entities would “own and operate three waters infrastructure on behalf of local authorities, including transferring ownership of three waters assets and access to cost-effective borrowing from capital markets to make the required investments”. It says ownership would be transferred to four entities, which themselves would be collectively owned by the councils they service.

Many councils argue they have done a good job with their water infrastructure, or have plans in place – with money already set aside – to manage the shortfall. They are lying to us all, and the state of the land and the rivers proves it every day. Few of our native species will survive another 30 years with this ownership and management structure.

The Government has offered $2.5b as a sweetener. Of that, $2bn would be used to smooth the differences, and $500m would go to supporting councils transition to the new arrangement.

Councils are also concerned about how the entities would be managed. These vested interests need such power stripped off them. Many are voted in by farmers as the Otago Regional Council shows, and their rivers are sucked dry to nothing. Or they are irreversibly poisoned like so many of the small lakes in the central North Island. This is at the feet of local and regional government. Not Maori.

Under the proposal Local government and mana whenua representatives would together appoint a regional representative group, who would manage concerns, strategy and expectations of the entities. For all the concern about governance, when your water goes off you don’t call an elected representative. You call the water entity and you demand service within the hour. Governance powers are over-rated when it comes to actual service about water.

The case for mayors having power over something they have failed at for nearly two centuries is long gone. They have been in the end destructive for our country.

One may argue that there is no place for “race based representation” and ownership of water assets. To those I would issue a challenge: go ahead and show why they would make it worse than what we have now. It’s time to reverse 150 years of water destruction.

There are few governance risks from Maori being involved that would make our water worse than what it is now. We may not yet be mature enough to enable Maori to have this say over water governance other than through a local government election and a late 2023 election. We can again disregard the Treaty of Waitangi. Everyone always wants you to consult more rather than get it done. If this government falls in 2023, more rivers and lakes will die, more forests will be crushed, and more species will become extinct because we failed to support Labour’s water reforms.

Water is a taonga under article two of the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori assertion of their rights and interests in water is based on a legitimate claim of tino rangatiratanga over that taonga. We should not expect outsider to understand how important that is. The Treaty of Waitangi is the underlying foundation of the Crown-iwi relationship for all freshwater resources. We as a nation have to face up to meeting our Treaty obligations – not just because it is good for us as peoples, or because it is our founding constitutional document, but also in water because it is the best hope we have for improving our water as a whole. The government expects that iwi values and interests should be addressed on a catchment-by-catchment basis across the entire country – some are starting to do it but it’s too late for more weak bullshit and lies.

It should be expected that the weak and greedy should march against such water regulation in their tractors in a Howl of Protest. They along with local and regional government have caused the full degradation of our water. It’s time to steamroller right over the top of all of them.

Labour, get this done.

147 comments on “3 Waters Reform Must Happen ”

  1. Poission 1

    This is no different from the Bradford reforms.All it shows is there are problematic issues with local government,(and the elected Wallys) not using the ratepayer funding for the core business (such as water and drainage,roads,parks etc) and moving into the entertainment business such as convention centres,stadia,etc.

    The foremost evidence is transferring the Scottish model with all its problems.

    Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, said: “It is utterly unacceptable that the Scottish Government has told Scottish Water to make such eye-watering price rises at this fragile time for family finances. What is even more galling is that they are sitting on massive capital reserves while they help push hundreds of thousands into a cost-of-living crisis.

    “The Government must reverse its decision and protect the people of Scotland from this unfair price hike.”


    The outcome will be an additional set of charges,poorly delivered outcomes,multiple cost blowouts,three levels of bureaucracy (with platoons of box tickers on interoffice interaction alone).

    The additional money for local government is already there,it has already been paid for by ratepayers,its called GST,return it to the local authorities with the proviso it is used for water and sewage.Additional stormwater for cities need to be paid for by central government due to the high risks entailed from gvt policy for intensification of residential housing (the reduction of rain sinks)

    Havelock North is a good example of good local knowledge,going west under the local gvt reforms.The problem was well known to the previous council workers,where flooding and ponding around the inlet site happened during large weather events.The fix like John Snows only required a spanner and some additional pipe height.

    • lprent 1.1

      All it shows is there are problematic issues with local government,(and the elected Wallys) not using the ratepayer funding for the core business (such as water and drainage,roads,parks etc) and moving into the entertainment business such as convention centres,stadia,etc.

      It is somewhat more than that. This local councils, and regional councils.

      Regional councils don't do "convention centres, stadia, etc".

      Yet they have presided over the largest deterioration in water – literally running rivers and aquifers dry. Allowing watershed areas to be clear felled. The remaining water to be severely polluted to the point that most open fresh water in NZ today is either dangerous to drink or likely to become so.

      The problem is that water is a geographical problem that lies outside the bounds of small urban areas like "Havelock North". Larger regional bodies are required to manage vast areas of watershed across NZ so that the problem doesn't deteriorate further.

      Under that management small area pollution points like Havelock North or even Auckland need to be managed as part of a combined strategy – and any remaining local bodies will be under direct orders about what they must do to achieve regional targets. If that means that storm water systems need separation from sewerage systems, then that needs to be done rapidly and up front, not deferred for decades as it was in Auckland and then taking decades to achieve.

      The outcome will be an additional set of charges,poorly delivered outcomes,multiple cost blowouts,three levels of bureaucracy (with platoons of box tickers on interoffice interaction alone).

      We already have that. That is an accurate description of the current system.

      • Poission 1.1.1

        The problem is that water is a geographical problem that lies outside the bounds of small urban areas like "Havelock North"

        The problem was using Havelock North in example by Mahuta.It was a poor example,it was a well established risk ie Known to the local body water engineers who had lost their jobs (due to reforms) the runoff and ponding with subsequent engress ,as well as subsequent pollution from avian coliforms.

        It was a local problem,and had a simple fix.

        Yet they have presided over the largest deterioration in water – literally running rivers and aquifers dry. Allowing watershed areas to be clear felled.

        Wellington managed that problem earlier in locking up the catchment areas by legislation,such as wainui and the Akatarewa.


        Christchurch has good local aquifiers ,and a small issue with the problem of too much water (similar to Havelock north) the coastal aquifiers at present tend to overflow.

        there are local issues with sewage constraints that prevents the ability to rebuild on damaged properties ( not red zone) due to the topography (and need vacuum pumps not gravity) which if rectified would allow an additional 1500 houses in low to moderate income areas) The cost of the fix is less then the cycle ways at a million$ a km.

        Regional councils are where tired politicians,and the unemployable go.They are significant failures,in so far that they are Sophistic by nature (they take simple issues and make them over complex) and have limited exposure to public scrutiny.

        • lprent

          Wellington managed that problem earlier in locking up the catchment areas by legislation,such as wainui and the Akatarewa.

          Sure and have now managed to defer dealing with century old (or more) water infrastructure to the point that they have sewers erupting in the streets.

          Auckland at least managed, more by luck than good management, to just stay ahead of that over the last 30 years. Of course it wasn't particularly well done – it hasn't the capacity to deal with the type of rapid intensification that we're getting along transport routes.

          Christchurch has good local aquifiers ,and a small issue with the problem of too much water (similar to Havelock north) the coastal aquifiers at present tend to overflow.

          Well they should – that is a continuous flow system. The question is if they are doing it more or less than they were decades ago.

          I'd have to look up the relatively recent papers that I read on it that point to increased salinity on the sea-ward side, and steadily increasing pollutants on the landward side. Both are an indication of decreased inward flows.

          Remember that those are reflecting trends 'upstream' from about a few decades ago. Probably before the massive farming intensification starting in the late 1990s.

          When you look at water systems you have to consider the whole system and look at it over generations. Having some short-term management by political figures is just guaranteed to cause long-term deterioration.

          • Poission

            Christchurch has good local aquifiers ,and a small issue with the problem of too much water (similar to Havelock north) the coastal aquifiers at present tend to overflow.

            They are local aquifiers,the increased rain sinks from the Redzone is around 10 million cubic metres per year,along the Avon alone.The coastal at New brighton,were subject to EQ deformation,however there is some evidence of Isostatic rebound as expected in the eastern suburbs.

  2. Ian 2

    Come on. even blind freddy can see that this muddy water stuff is a ham fisted attempt by maori elite to extort money out of New Zealanders

    • Patricia Bremner 2.1

      Well Blind Freddy better put his glasses on and see the shite in our rivers and pipes bursting in streets.

      angry Are you a groundswell member? Who these New Zealanders? I take it they don't include Maori in your twisted world?

      "Maori elite extort money out of New Zealanders" Racist divisive statement.

    • roblogic 2.2

      So that's what the right's argument boils down to. Racist resentment and money grubbing.

  3. RedLogix 3

    Your argument is essentially a re-run of the scam the Maori Labour cabinet are pulling here.

    As I have clearly stated from the outset there is a very good case for water management to be amalgamated so that both capital and scarce talent is more evenly distributed across the country. Larger entities that have the political clout to face down the destructive end of the farmer lobby would start to address the the specific issues we have with river and aquifer quality.

    But using this reasonable technical argument as a cover to hand over to unelected, unaccountable Maori elites the power of veto and thus effective control over all water in NZ is a whole other thing indeed. And increasingly ordinary kiwis are seeing through the scam.

    Election lost.

    • Robert Guyton 3.1

      Will the "Maori elites" be granted the power of veto?

      Can you link/quote to support your claim?


    • Alan 3.2

      yes, political suicide

    • swordfish 3.3


    • Patricia Bremner 3.4

      Oh just hand it to unelected Farming elites shall we?

    • mickysavage 3.5

      What should we do about te Triti's promise to Maori that their rights to their Taonga would be protected?

      • theotherpat 3.5.1

        how about we look at the water rights be everyones Taonga……in this instance i am prepared to overlook the Treaty {gasp horrors phisitine!!!}….water is an essential right for every human in fact an essential need…..3waters is divisive and will certainly be the final nail in Labours election chances……better to do a proper job and fence off all the vested interests and control them for a start……remember that Dame whatserface and the appointed ECAN scam did to Canterbury,,,,we do not want those bastard Natz in again….the will flog off everything this time to pay for Labours Covid debts or some bullshit like it.

    • left for dead 3.6

      @ redlogic "Well,look here buddy boy",,(taking a quote from Jeff Kennett)you should have a good look about where are residing and tell us "with a straight face"leaving water to the private sector is the way to go.

    • lprent 3.7

      …to hand over to … Maori elites the power of veto and thus effective control over all water in NZ is a whole other thing indeed.

      As far as I can tell that is a just a stupid lie.

      Perhaps you would like to find something to substantiate that, rather than just sounding like a mindless bigot pushing the Hobsons choice / Act racist line.

      But it is beside the point anyway. As you point out, we need to have much better water management. Clearly the councils local and regional have been terrible at doing the task over (at least) the last century.

      What would you propose? And how is that different from what is proposed?

      • RedLogix 3.7.1

        Ad pivots his article on the notion that all water belongs to the iwi chiefs as their taonga – the ones who signed the Treaty and presumably their descendents in perpetuity.

        If Maori do NOT have a power of veto under these proposed Three Waters – then exactly what rights do these owners have over their property? If the answer is as you claim that they really will have no power – then on what basis are you claiming their governance will be any better?

        • lprent

          FFS: What meaning do you have for taonga

          I bet it is the meaningless meaning of property that was the default setting of the settlers. That is the meaning that simpletons like Don Brash or Act would put on everything because they're kind of stupid about language. They live in a small-minded rigid framework that doesn't accept concepts outside of their own interpretations.

          Have a look at the Te Aka. The first non meaning is the one that the settlers used it for. The common meaning in 1840 and in any Maori or Polynesian community that I have been around is more like the second and older meaning.

          In English, the best interpretation is that of prized or treasure. This even applies when you look at descriptions by someone like Hone Hika who describe it as "property procured by the spear". In other words a trophy holding value irrespective of the utility of the property itself.

          If you re-look at Ad's post within that context, then I'd suggest it casts a whole different aspect. Particularly when you look at the way that all Polynesian cultures retain such strong stories and investment in taonga that was prized generations earlier, or even that they never actually had as objects themselves.

          If you look at the treatment of the watersheds and coasts by our councils, then it is impossible to see much treatment of it as being prized or treasure. It has been more like an continuous extortion of value out of resources with no real thought of the future.

          The reason that Maori are interested in 3 waters is basically to make sure that it is treasured again. Their focus is likely to be on not screwing it up any more than it already is, and fixing what has been damaged.

          I'm sure that is going to piss off developers and the some councils on the boards. But at this point I really don't give a damn. Unless there is a substantive conservationist push in our water care with decades of cleanup work to do, then development can take a back seat for a lifetime.

          Of the places that I studied closely 40 years ago, outside of some DOC lands, have all deteriorated markedly almost entirely due to piss-poor management. Lakes, rivers, coastlines, harbours, aquifers, watersheds, everything. They are also deteriorating at an increasing rate.

          Overall I can't think of anything more likely to achieve that than a group of people with a track record of doing determined pushes over very long periods of time.

          If it does turn out that anyone starts actual extortion, then the management model can be changed. But at this point I think that the council members are far far more likely to do that than anyone else. They have serious form for being useless at running anything.

          After all I'm from Auckland, a city that has had a local body system that essentially stalled all substantial required progress in development for more than 30 years with stupid political plays between the Auckland cities, boroughs and even within the ACC/ARC.

          • RedLogix

            I bet it is the meaningless meaning of property that was the default setting of the settlers. That is the meaning that simpletons like Don Brash or Act would put on everything because they're kind of stupid about language. They live in a small-minded rigid framework that doesn't accept concepts outside of their own interpretations.Given that Maori had no central government to issue and enforce the concept of title – either freehold or lease – then of course there is no direct mapping of these concepts onto the idea of taonga.

            But taonga was the word they had to use in 1840 when the ToW was written up. And in 2022 that word can only be meaningfully mapped onto the idea of property. It certainly seems to be how Tuhoe are regarding Te Urewera for example; they may not have a paper title from the hated white squatter government, but they sure can behave as if it is theirs to dictate what happens.

            You really only have two choices here – either we abolish the hated white colonial government with all of it's failed ideas like democracy, property and rule of law so as to allow the iwi chiefs to exert their sacred, indigenous right to control their taonga as they see fit in a traditional context – OR the meaning of the word gets converted into something closer to property and title that might have practical meaning in 2022.

            There seems to be some kind of magical thinking going on here – that if we return NZ to a pre-European, pre-Industrial norms of governance that somehow this will solve all our problems. When in fact the reality of this country before 1840 was something quite different indeed.

            • lprent

              And in 2022 that word can only be meaningfully mapped onto the idea of property.

              Taking a single instance and deriving a trend from it isn't exactly going to impress me. But FFS – lets delve into your lack of underlying knowledge on Te Urewera in a specific way – starting with funding and the enabling Act.

              On the Te Urewera, the problem appears to be partially this.

              Te Urewera Board Chair Tāmati Kruger said funding needs to be boosted back to “at least” the level it was before the Tūhoe settlement when the area used to be a national park.

              Tūhoe receives about $2.5 million a year from the Crown for resources. When it was a national park Kruger said funding to DOC was at least $7 million.

              In practice it is probably hard to figure out what the cost was because DOC doesn't divide up all of the costs. I just had a look to see what a probable costs from 2000-2010 were and simply can't find them in the coherent form.

              But it was definitely not user-pays-all, was effectively state funded for the recreational aspects, and looks to have had an annual cost well over somewhere 2.5 million annually over the several decades leading up to the Act – once you include the capital build of assets.

              All of the charges made by the park area (hunting licenses, hut fees, moorings etc) have never been capable to maintain even a small fraction of the the basic maintenance for recreational activities, let alone the development of public assets or the land management.

              While DOC are anxious to do work on the recreational parts of land, this isn't the focus of the board. They are focused on the first two purposes in the Act – which was what they were concerned with after a long alienation from the land.

              Let me repeat the purpose of the enabling act for you.

              The purpose of this Act is to establish and preserve in perpetuity a legal identity and protected status for Te Urewera for its intrinsic worth, its distinctive natural and cultural values, the integrity of those values, and for its national importance, and in particular to—

              (a) strengthen and maintain the connection between Tūhoe and Te Urewera; and

              (b) preserve as far as possible the natural features and beauty of Te Urewera, the integrity of its indigenous ecological systems and biodiversity, and its historical and cultural heritage; and

              (c) provide for Te Urewera as a place for public use and enjoyment, for recreation, learning, and spiritual reflection, and as an inspiration for all.

              Note the order and purpose. You should also look at the background (s3) with its repetition of prized rather than property, and principles (s5) as well.

              But the purpose says nothing about maintaining it as a DOC run national park (which is what I suspect you're silently griping about) or indeed anything similar. See this overview of what the act is about from a Maori viewpoint.

              The act itself is pretty damn clear that its purpose if to make sure the land is close to unalienable – see Part 3 subpart 2 and in particular s111, and has large constraints about what can be done on the land. It seems kind of hard to treat it as property if it can't be sold, and you can't do most of the usual purposes that land is used fro.

              There is clearly a disconnect between the focus of the first two purposes and what I think (still guessing) seems to be your gripe on the third and least important purpose. But in the end the board makes the decisions on priorities. It is just that appear to prize things that you do not. Which pretty much sounds like a person with sour grapes syndrome more than anything with a principle underlying it.

              About the only thing that Tuhoe can do that is different to a National Park in terms of property in the Act is to allow mining leases under special and constrained conditions. Specifically the Board acts as the minister would with Crown lands under the Crown Minerals Act 1991 see s64, and doesn't have the very severe prohibitions that are in the National Parks acts – which a more like needing to be authorised under national security and emergency needs.

              The management plan by the board from what I can read concentrates almost entirely on the first two purposes in s4. The third purpose isn't that high a priority. But that is well within the bounds of what the Act allows.

              Instead the board are pretty clear that they are prioritising their operations on what they value in their taonga – something that you clearly neither value nor can be bothered to try to understand. Sure they could go and stuff access charges up as high as they like and still keep public access. But that isn't what has been done. They could go out and give concessions for mining and other purposes for cash – but that isn't what they have done. What they have done appears to be to focus on the first two purposes in the Act.

              Tuhoe and even the Te Urewera Act board don't own the land. According to the Act, the land owns itself. Rather like the way that the Crown doesn't own property but does allow it to be run by the Crown entities like parliament or the armed forces provided that they they stick to some defined purposes and principles.

              I can't see anything in there that compels the board to anything more than the Crown could do with inalienable lands with limited purposes does. They may offer services like tracks or huts. Or they may not. What the Act says is more about what they can't do, or the severe constraints within which they must operate. Subject to the removal of the board members if they overstep the bounds of the Act.

              If you want to use the Te Uerewa as an example of indigenous bashing then you should also actually read the relevant legislation.

              You really only have two choices here – either we abolish the hated white colonial government with all of it's failed ideas like democracy, property and rule of law so as to allow the iwi chiefs to exert their sacred, indigenous right to control their taonga as they see fit in a traditional context – OR the meaning of the word gets converted into something closer to property and title that might have practical meaning in 2022.

              Basically I can't see anything in the legislation or the operations of Te Urewera Act 2014 that indicates that it indicates constitutes property to Tuhoe or the board. Certainly nothing close to private property, under any usual legal definition. The board and Tuhoe have massive constraints on what they may do and how. They can't sell the land. can't build except with some very string constraints. They can't cut it. They can have concessions with strong constraints.

              The nearest analogy is the National Parks acts and some other parts of nearly inalienable Crown lands or the equivalent in other jurisdictions.

              So I'd just have to say that you have a very limited, blinkered, ignorant, and probably somewhat bigoted view in in your daft binary view on what is possible. Your selected example makes it pretty obvious that there are different ways of managing land. I can see other choices. Evidently the Crown could as well they approved what parliament passed in this legislation. This was a Act that was passed using "failed ideas like democracy, property and rule of law".

              It's primary purposes are exactly what has been followed. There has been a focus away on the third purpose away from the National Park focus – because the Act sees less of a priority in it than the first two purposes.


              FFS RL – could you actually go and read up on some of the dumbarse shit you've used in this discussion. It'd be than better to deal with that your broad-brush, rather ignorant, griping without ever saying what you're upset actually about. That just reads to me like you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

              You're currently reading like one of those idiots who have read a review of (or even read) a 19th century law book like Blackstone, and think that they have some understanding or relevance to our legal system. All bluster, bullshit, and no attention to relevant details.

              • RedLogix

                FFS what a lot of words to basically say what I have claimed at the outset – that Tuhoe having gained effective legal control over Te Urewera and are now using as their own giant backyard for their own purposes.

                And yes it used to be a DoC run National Park accessible to all New Zealanders but management are now minimising that purpose. I have lifelong connections with the tramping and hunting community who emphatically confirm that effectively access is now alienated.

                Even to the extent that my daughter and son in law who are both keen hunters (God knows how she didn't get it from me) have a close mate whose father is Chinese and mother is Tuhoe – but because he doesn't look Maori he dares not set foot in Te Urewera with a gun any more. And the number of older DoC huts that have mysteriously burned down over the past decade or so is quite remarkable – already I can count three that I once visited that are now gone and will never be replaced.

                And FFS you assume I know nothing of the background – by contrast I was a close and old friend of the senior East Coast DoC manager who first reached out to Tuhoe decades ago with a view to establishing a closer partnership. We spoke of his experiences extensively before he passed away some years ago. The gap between the vision of those early negotiations and what has now come to pass can only be described as discouraging.

                FFS my paternal great-grandfather served and died in the WW1 Maori Contingent 24th Reinforcements and is from one of the smaller East Coast iwi. I have probably spent more time on various marae than 95% of all the regular commenters here combined – obliquely implying that I am a ignorant racist is another FFS moment.

                FFS you can quote legal Acts to the FFS cows come home, but FFS what matters is how it plays out in reality. And as a bell-weather example of so-called Crown -Iwi co-governance Te Urewera has sadly not turned out at all well for the large majority of New Zealanders who had their own reasons to prize it as well. Given that the notorious He Puapua document clearly foreshadows a similar co-governance across the entire DoC estate – and that DoC have established an internal 'Options Development Group' recommending just this – then maybe it is you who is ignorant of what is happening on the ground here.

                FFS this arrogant 'noble savage' sentiment that only Maori as a morally superior people are capable of having a connection to place and value it for it's intrinsic worth is frankly bullshit. Using it as moral cover to hand over 30% of NZ's land area to tribal authorities to operate according to their priorities demands to be taken to an election as open, debatable policy.

                Not hidden in some plausibly deniable, backroom policy process. FFS.

    • roblogic 3.8

      Sounds like an improvement over the current right wing strategy of stacking councils with their farming mates and turning all the water supplies into cowshit

      ECan exposed: regulator hides damning report (newsroom.co.nz)

    • Robert Guyton 3.9

      I wonder why RedLogix didn't follow-up and provide the links that would support his claim?

      He usually does.

      • Incognito 3.9.1

        3. How would mana whenua be involved in governance? I’ve heard talk of a “veto”

        A mana whenua representative group would be part of the structure that selects the entity boards. It would help appoint a Regional Representative Group, which would appoint an Independent Selection Panel, which would appoint the Entity Board.

        This is totally different from having “a power of veto”.

        As outlined in this Cabinet paper, no single local government or mana whenua representative would have a veto right or ability to exert negative control over decisions for the Representative Group.


  4. pat 4

    Leaving the anti democratic governance issues aside, the problem the government have with 3 Waters is they appear unwilling or unable to demonstrate HOW their proposed reform either reduces the projected costs or improves outcomes.

    There is no shortage of aspirational rhetoric (and scaremongering) however.

    • left for dead 4.1

      pat Having access to cheaper money and shared technology in testing current systems,for a start.

      • pat 4.1.1


        • left for dead

          LGFA ,if I think what your thinking,a number are not members,DCC as far as I know have thought about it,to help them drive up debit from about 300 million to over billion. And anyway their credit rating is not as favorable as this new entity.Local government funding agency,that is.

          • pat

            LGFA. or the local gov funding agency. issues bonds with 20% gov support to enable a cheaper funding cost than otherwise available….there is nothing to stop the Gov from providing the full discount to its own rate.

            It is a choice and dosnt require anything other than the will….so cheaper financing is a red herring

    • lprent 4.2

      Simply in the ability to raise capital to do large projects expeditiously.

      If you ever want to look at the ultimate in stupidity, just look any series of local or regional body discussions on a capital project for any water system. Most of the discussion isn't about the merits of the project. Most of it is either about how it will affect other projects that bear more closely on local politicians electoral chances, or raising charges or rates.

      Almost all projects involving water get shelved and reshelved over decades.

    • Graeme 4.3

      The scale of expertise that the new entities will have will be much more than any local authority in New Zealand at present.

      This may not be that significant for Auckland, where not much will change, but it will be for Gore who are struggling with sewage infrastructure that most of New Zealand moved on from in the early 1900's

      • pat 4.3.1

        Another red herring. The expertise is in the country or not. There is nothing to stop that expertise being made available to all comers regardless of governance structure.

        • Graeme

          I don't think you've seen an of the carnage consultants have wrought on small local bodies around the Country. In Otago and Southland I can't think of a TA that hasn't got a piece of major infrastructure, done through consultants because the TA didn't have the staff to design or supervise it, that hasn't worked. I'm talking sewage ponds that don't work, sewer manholes that overflow beside water pumping stations and criminal crap of that nature.

          I've seen sewage ponds where what was going in was better than what was being discharged into the river. Small council that got taken for a ride by consultants. Came uncomfortably close to a town of 3000 being shut down and kept a fleet of turd taxis very busy for six months while a pipeline was built to take the sewage to the next town. and that had to be rebuilt 3 years later because the council and consultants stuffed it up.

          The current model doesn't reliably and comprehensively produce safe results and hasn't for a very long time. Especially in small councils, the staff don't have the skills to know when they are being taken for a ride, the councillors haven't a clue what's going on and don't want to spend the money to do it properly and trim the project back to save money, and the consultants just want to make as much out of it as they can and baffle everyone with bullshit.

          I don't see how the current model can be changed to get around that, without wholesale local government amalgamation so we end up with five councils the size of Auckland.

          Which is what 3 Waters is doing without amalgamating the councils, just the 3 waters side of their works and engineering departments (if they even have an engineering dept) along with taking over their 3 waters infrastructure liabilities. Small councils get to keep their local identities and respond to their local communities, and specialist entities take care of their water and sewage with the expertise to do it properly.

          • pat

            Who said anything about consultants?

            The expertise can be made available through central or local government….as has been done in the past.

            Its worth noting that changing the governance structure dosnt change the expertise available, or not….nor does it preclude the use of consultants.

            The reality is regardless of structure the same people will end up doing the work.

            • Graeme

              Because councils don't have the expertise on their staff, and especially around the council table, the councils have been bringing in consultants to tell them what to do. This happens in all councils by the way but is very stark in the small councils.

              Well councillors get elected to spend as little money as possible and consultants want to make as much money as possible. Nowhere in the interaction is building the best, or most appropriate, infrastructure part of the process. So we get a succession of inappropriate, and in some cases downright dangerous, local body infrastructure projects.

              Your idea of a State consultancy to 'advise' councils what to do won't change much apart from create huge conflicts, the councillors will still be making the decisions and want to skimp on unground infrastructure and spend the money on playgrounds and civic centres.

              The whole thing needs to be taken out of councillors hands and administered by an independent organisation.

              • pat

                I dont advocate a State 'consultancy'…I make the observation that especially given the need to decarbonise and repurpose our entire economy, state run and funded infrastructure expertise, but more importantly a comprehensive PLAN is required not just for metro 3 waters, given that all of the infrastructure elements are interconnected.

                A transitional MoW if you prefer….centrally funded, providing the expertise and oversight that will be needed by all organisations.

                And that dosnt require the removal of democracy or the engagement of consultants.

                3 Waters addresses none of that.

                • pat

                  It is not just councils that lack technical expertise and rely on consultants and reports….central gov have had the same lack for decades.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    I wonder where in the convoluted mess accountability will lie. Whose head will roll, if any, when the next Havelock North level infection event occurs?

    As for Maori entities, their governance has not thus far proven immune to the vices that afflict the melanin deficient.

    No argument that councils have done a lousy job. Not sure why the councils themselves aren't being reformed. They still seem to be taking plenty of rates.

  6. Graeme 6

    Local Government politicians hate 3 Waters because it's taking away the toys that get them elected.

    Those toys are the 'assets' they borrow against to build all the pretty above ground things like playgrounds, event centres and civic upgrade that make them look good in the eyes of the voters.

    However, anyone who thinks a pipe in the ground is an asset has never had anything to do with managing inground infrastructure. Reality is that the things are a liability from the day they are built and you never really know how long they are going to last, or were they are going to break next, or how much it's going to cost to fix them. The utility that the infrastructure provides is the asset, the water out of the tap or the sewage taken away from the house, the infrastructure that does that is a massive liability. The pipes are only an asset to someone who wants to borrow against it.

    • Poission 6.1

      Well the Acqua vergine (built 19bc ) did need refurbishment in 1453.


      • lprent 6.1.1

        Sure.That really is a pointless comparison.

        Our dams are the same. They last a long time once built even with minimal maintenance. Same with the large pipes from them. The problem really isn't there – potable water is after all the lesser portion of my water bill. Sewerage is at least 50% more becaus ethose things require a lot of maintenance. (keep thinking THREE waters FFS).

        On the other hand the population of Rome went from being about 1.1 million when that was built to a peak of 1.6 million 150 years later. Then it started falling. Note the population at about 1500. They didn't need much maintenance because the aqueduct could be leaking 95% of its water and still furnish enough to service the population.

        Whereas Auckland region has grown from a population of about 430 thousand since I was born in 1959 to about 1,652,000 now – 62 years later.

        In 1959 Havelock North had a population of 2,810. Now it has a population of ~15,150

        Not exactly a comparable population growth rates to ancient Rome.

        • Poission

          But it is still being used today which was the point.over 2000 yrs later.

          Sure population changes do occur,as does technology,however the low cost,long term,and the use of Newtons laws, do constrain so called technological breakthroughs (always constrained by fluid dynamics)

          Speaking of technology cloudflare has an interface problem again,better ring a plumber.

    • Robert Guyton 6.2

      Not all Local Government politicians "hate 3 Waters", Graeme.

      I'm a strong supporter.

      • Graeme 6.2.1

        Yeah, I know that Robert. But you've been able to build sufficient constituency to get elected without having to build glittering towers. Most local government politicians don't have that many good ideas so have to try and compensate with good works, at the ratepayers' expense.

  7. McFlock 7

    Lots of councils oppose it. To sweeten it, the government offered councils $2.5bn to opt into the reforms, aiming to leave no council worse off from the reforms and ensure consensus.

    cf: Dunedin alone:

    Cr O'Malley said the city council was losing control of $3 billion of assets and it needed to strenuously challenge the basis for that.

    That's one of the issues right there: councils have their infrastructure valued as assets against liabilities. Removing ownership of such large assets in involuntary exchange for (what – 10%? 1%?) of their value would stuff councils just as much as demanding they upgrade their infrastructure themselves. It's a joke.

    Then there's the composition of the 3waters authorities: not the council/tangata whenua divide (which is largely a red herring imo), but each council gets a vote regardless of the population size it serves.

    I don't mind regulatory demands, even "you upgrade your water infrastructure or we'll take it" has an argument behind it. But putting something into a centrally-controlled body doesn't mean that body will suddenly put bright new gold-plated pipes into every sewer line in NZ tomorrow.

    But it will make it more difficult for residents to oppose the water meters in Dunedin that have been successfully opposed for decades.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    I don't think the issue is so much the amalgamation and management of water resources for the common good. I think there is a rational argument for a national strategic management of water reticulation that could be debated as an option for solving water supply issues in New Zealand. Although, the argument for that is debatable.

    For instance, we have a national management of interconnecting roading. But councils usually take responsibility for management of roading within their own cities. Given that water reticulation does not tend to connect between cities, but tends to be discrete to the cities themselves, the logic for a national management strategy is a bit dubious in my opinion.

    The bigger issue is the way this has been sold. The government appears to have been deceitful and duplicitous in this respect. For instance, giving an opt-out option then withdrawing it. And information subsequentially coming out suggesting that consultation around Three Waters appeared to be a sham as decisions appeared to have already been made.



    Also, the whole co-governance issue is political cyanide, given the polarising nature of that issue.

    If there had been a truly good-faith process that brought the whole nation into the discussion, then the government might be in a different place right now.

    From a local perspective, here in Christchurch, if Three Waters results in us having our beautiful fresh artesian water tainted with chlorination then I think that will be a major vote loser here. We have already had a short-term experience of chlorination and it was disgusting.

    Not to say that care shouldn't be taken to ensure the safety of drinking water. But there are other ways to do that. And I hope that Christchurch does get an exemption from the chlorination requirement. I think it would be a major vote loser for Labour in Christchurch if chlorination were to be forced on an unwilling public.

  9. Mike the Lefty 9

    Groundswell is one of the organisations most opposed to Three Waters. Several months ago I wrote to them asking them why they opposed it so vehemently, citing how the Canterbury plains ecosystems were being destroyed by water exploitation. Somewhat surprisingly I actually got a response. They gave the usual cliches about it being "unworkable" "undemocratic", "we agree something must be done but….". Essentially Groundswell think that no-one should be able to tell them what to do on THEIR land and view any national co-ordination on water, stormwater and wastewater as communist-inspired conspiracies.

    Cue the dancing cossacks.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    Further to my post above, a model I think would be more acceptable to councils and involve a lot less bureaucracy generally would be:

    1. A national standard for water quality.

    2. A requirement for councils to show regularly (annually/quarterly?) that they are meeting that standard.

    3. A national fund that councils can apply to for upgrade work as necessary.

    4. The government can take control of water assets out of the hands of councils that are not complying, for instance, by appointing commissioners.

    That sort of framework would provide the incentive and ability for councils to meet standards but in a way that suits their individual circumstances.

    • Ad 10.1

      They already have 1, 2, and most of 4 of that.

      • tsmithfield 10.1.1

        "They already have 1, 2, and most of 4 of that.''

        Great. Then we only need to add step 3. Very simple. And much easier and more democratic that wrenching control of water assets out of the hands of councils.

        It seems to me that the biggest issue for councils to sort the problem is the unaffordability aspect rather than a lack of will. So, step 3 would fix that.

        Given that, as you say, most of this is already in place, then it beggars belief that we still have problems.

        The issue to me seems more to do with the lack of willingness to enforce what we have already. I can't remember commissioners taking over the management of water resources from a council because the council was doing a piss-poor job.

        • Ad

          $2.5b has been put up already. I expect Councils will now rort the bejeezus out of government for every billion they can get.

          • tsmithfield

            $2.5 billion obviously isn’t enough. And I think the facility should be in the form of a loan not a grant. Therefore, that should solve the rorting problem if councils have to pay it back.

            I don't disagree that there is a problem that needs solving. The argument is more around how to do that.

            As a counter-argument to the Three Waters style of national management is that I think local assets should be managed by local councils. As I mentioned above, this is how roading tends to be managed, and various other city functions.

            The question is whether water networks are local assets or national assets. I would argue they are local assets because they are specific to the cities that manage them. We don't have an inteconnected network across the country because issues such as pressure drop over distance would make that sort of solution nigh impossible.

            From an individual council perspective some councils are doing very well with managing their water. Some are doing very poorly. The problem with a national approach is that it exerts control over the councils that are doing well, when the real issue is the councils that are doing poorly.

            An overarching national approach tends to enforce standardised solutions whether they are necessary or not on an individual council level.

            As mentioned above, Christchurch is a good example. We have beautiful artesian water free from the disgusting taste of chlorine. Why should we have that taken away from us when we have enjoyed this benefit for many decades?

            There are options for water purity that we, as rate-payers should be able to explore and make decisions on ourselves. For instance, as rate-payers we may decide we want to invest in the additional cost of UV water purification in order to preserve our fresh, chlorine-free water, and at the same time ensure that we are future-proofed so far as standards are concerned.

            • lprent

              And I think the facility should be in the form of a loan not a grant. Therefore, that should solve the rorting problem if councils have to pay it back.

              Makes no difference. One of the biggest issues with the local government is that they have loan ratio limits against assets, and they're almost all already in hock to their ratio limits against their largest assets – like water infrastructure. Somehow little of the money that they have borrowed has been put to use in water infrastructure. The asset value is purely from capital value increases over the last century.

              That indicates that there is a structural problem at the governance level.

              Furthermore, your plan does absolutely nothing to deal with the issues at a regional level. Which is where most of the problem arises. That is the empty aquifers, dry waterways and polluted water.

              The solutions for regional have to be integrated with the sewers and water draws for the towns and cities. Hard to do if the local politicians just outright refuse to deal with them.

              • tsmithfield

                "Furthermore, your plan does absolutely nothing to deal with the issues at a regional level. Which is where most of the problem arises. That is the empty aquifers, dry waterways and polluted water."

                Fine. Lets deal with this the same way we deal with roads then:

                Waka Kotahi to manage the national infrastructure and local councils to manage roads within the city.

                And the asset ratio issue isn't going to be fixed by stripping the water assets away from the council and giving them to another entity. It will only make the problem worse.

              • McFlock

                Furthermore, your plan does absolutely nothing to deal with the issues at a regional level. Which is where most of the problem arises. That is the empty aquifers, dry waterways and polluted water.

                But when one regional authority tried to act responsibly, it was central government that stopped the effort – ECAN.

                Whether it's central, local, or regional, the issue isn't who controls it but what their priorities are. Legislate those (with personal liability for decisionmakers), and their hearts and mind will follow.

            • Ad

              Transport governance is not a useful comparison.

              In New Zealand only Auckland has an effectively planned public transport system – because it is a unitary council.

              The rest of them are shit.

              All local authorities in New Zealand are over 50% subsidised by government already – and yet we are one of the most car dependent and petrol dependent nations on earth.

              Transport is not the model to quote.

          • Poission

            The money is over 4 years,and the 2.5B is nearly half of what ratepayers are already paying the government in GST.So in effect they are giving back half,and increasing costs to users.

            • Ad

              Expect water costs to rise. The under-investment and multi-generational damage has to be paid for.

              • Poission

                Christchurch (metro) does not have a problem with the water supply,sewage has manageable issues that are both fixable,and allow for expansion within the footprint for either the cost of the bike lanes,or the GST component of rates.

                Semi rural say banks peninsula has issues with water shortages in Summer when tourism and batch owners on town supply, this is problematic with all utilities as council and say energy companies have to have larger fixed infrastructure then usual population demand needs.

                The website says I will be paying around the same in 2050 (although it does overprice my existing costs by 50%) Inflation aside this would suggest funding would have to be on 30 yr bonds,good luck with that.

                • Ad

                  This is such faulty logic.

                  Often espoused by water retailers. Water retailers are required by current law to price only what is required to maintain their two waters to the lowest justifiable price.

                  But the point of integrating freshwater, wastewater and stormwater together is to ensure that all are regulated and planned and priced and paid for as one.

                  That's because there's only one water. And stormwater by being unpriced and disaggregated is where all our wildlife and humans actually live amongst.

                  So Christchurch City Council's handling of water bills may appear OK since it manages 2 waters in its entity, when you absorb in the full catchment of Canterbury and include ECAN, you see where the real costs have fallen. They fall on nature itself.

                  ECAN because a political plaything for the diary industry and government and the result is ruin. A disaggregated mess.

                  Reaggregation of water and its governance is where the good will come.

                  • Poission

                    Nope stormwater in the Heathcote and Avon are managed by CCC,the largest risk factor outside that is the Waimak,managed by both local councils and Ecan.

                    River clearance in the city rivers is well maintained,choke points for flooding on the Avon,are around the Fitzgerald bridge.Which was rebuilt after the quakes,by the Government entity (which was too low for high annual events,and blocks after any rainfall.

                    East of there the Avon Red Zone is now a large rain catchment (around 10 million cum^3 pa) that has lessened flooding ,recharges the eastern aquifiers ,reverted to a wet land in low areas (as it was) and will have substantial native vegetation.

                    The catchment ponds for western development (heathcote) are completed ,and have substantial wetland barriers to the flood plain.This allows stormwater to both evaporate and enter wet lands to remove particulation,and dissipate runoff to the Heathcote.

                    • Ad

                      Yes that largest risk factor of poorly managed wider catchment stormwater by the regional council is what I was pointing to. Christchurch Council does see the need for reform in this area. It just opposes the governance structure.

                      ECAN supported the intent of the reforms, had no view on the governance structure.

                      The Canterbury regional Mayors as a whole appeared pretty neutral on the governance issues, as distinct from the regulatory ones.

                      Submission on economic regulation and consumer protection for three waters services in New Zealand (mbie.govt.nz)

                      I loved this bit:

                      "A significant risk to sources of drinking water is from discharges from domestic on-site wastewater systems, particularly cumulative effects from unreticulated communities. Other than in an ad hoc manner through section 42(4) there appears to be no requirement for this risk to be considered. The amendment to the Local Government Act should include a specific requirement to identify all communities that lack a reticulated sewerage system and stormwater system and the risk this presents to drinking water."

                      That's code for Canterbury farm shit stuffing up drinking water all over the place, and please help. Hilarious.

                    • Poission

                      It says domestic risk in unreticulated rural locations,and also includes ,batchs,life style blocks ,huts etc.

                      A point that does arise,(being an obvious one) is the comparison with electricity suppliers etc.

                      Another significant complexity that further widens the gap between supplying electricity and three waters services is that it is challenging to supply water services to individual customers when they have different quality characteristics to their neighbours or carry out urban stormwater initiatives that impact on service levels to whole neighbourhoods and communities.

                      This is not the case for electricity supply where electricity consumers can have different interruptability conditions. For this reason we consider it will be more meaningful and effective to
                      engage with whole communities rather than individual customers. We consider that that electricity, commerce and telecommunications regulation has served small communities poorly to date, and
                      these examples should not be followed for three waters.

                      Hard to argue that one,and the comparative analysis should be returned to sender.

                  • pat

                    "That's code for Canterbury farm shit stuffing up drinking water all over the place, and please help. Hilarious."

                    No.its an acknowledgement that supplies of under (i think) of 250 users are in limbo and dont know how or if they will be subject to the regulations….the impact of dairy or hort on the (largely) metro 3 waters appears to be conveniently avoided

  11. left for dead 11

    @advantage ,, I take back all I said about you"well almost everything"

    a very good OP, we need change,Now.

    I've played mid level politics and have meet Nanaia Mahuta,and I like the cut of her gib.

  12. Hunter Thompson II 12

    No matter who is in charge of NZ water, that body of persons must put the continued well-being of the resource first, and hence safeguard the interests of future generations.

    Water is a finite resource (even if councils delude themselves by thinking otherwise). That means we need a Chief Regulator to act as a Water Czar and limit its use by industry, no matter how much the Groundswell mob will moan.

    Regional councils dominated by rural sector players cannot be trusted to look beyond their own interests.

    It seems the government’s Three Waters is concerned only with water quality for domestic users. Water in rural rivers and streams outside National Parks will be allowed to carry on declining, to the point where the cartoon above will be 100% accurate.

  13. But it will make it more difficult for residents to oppose the water meters in Dunedin that have been successfully opposed for decades.

    I think water meters are a scourge.

    Initially attractive from a user pays but having a great impact on those who are the least able to pay, like GST on food. They impact on those on lower wages or with larger households. Larger more cramped households have a greater tendency to have skin complaints and freely available water is needed for washing clothes/baths/showers. There is the eczema/asthma link and already asthma is prevalent in crowded homes.

    Encouraging moderation is one thing but penalising those who need water to wash as part of maintaining good or bettering ill health is cruel.

    Unless there is a realistic amount of abatement for the use by a family/household they catch everybody when they should be aimed at excessive or business water users.

    • tsmithfield 13.1

      Yes. We have meters in Christchurch now that are being charged. I think it is a bit of a rort the way it is being done.

      People are charged if they are high users. This tool, provided by the council, allows people to check not only their own addresses, but other addresses as well. I think there must be privacy implications for this.


      But the main issue is that most addresses I checked were in the "high usage" category, hence liable to be charged. If the council has deliberately set the usage threshold to capture most rate-payers then it definitely would qualify as a rort IMO.

      Not that I am opposed to charging for water. I think that the best way to control the usage of limited resources is to charge for them. People then think about how they are using the resources and try to reduce their use of them.

      • Shanreagh 13.1.1

        The water meter approach I am most against is that where everyone pays for every litre used. There is no allocation for average household use. So we have people whose living conditions require a 'greater' use for normal use, eg large families who pay as if they were overusing water. A very blunt instrument similar to effect of GST on food on poorer people/families.

        Charging everyone equally, without recourse to need, does not mean it is a fair process. The old equity/equality/fairness conundrum.

        • tsmithfield

          I tend to agree with you. The threshold needs to be higher, which is why I pointed out the somewhat deceitful way the CCC is doing it.

          It should really be picking up those who use water a lot more than just for daily showers etc.

          Those who incessantly water their gardens for instance, might be motivated to reuse water from the clothes washing etc for to reduce the amount of water used from the water mains for that purpose.

        • Craig H

          Totally agree, the vast majority of water cost is in the fixed assets of the infrastructure, not the running costs of the system.

  14. Water is a taonga under article two of the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori assertion of their rights and interests in water is based on a legitimate claim of tino rangatiratanga over that taonga. We should not expect outsider to understand how important that is. The Treaty of Waitangi is the underlying foundation of the Crown-iwi relationship for all freshwater resources. We as a nation have to face up to meeting our Treaty obligations – not just because it is good for us as peoples, or because it is our founding constitutional document, but also in water because it is the best hope we have for improving our water as a whole. The government expects that iwi values and interests should be addressed on a catchment-by-catchment basis across the entire country

    All of our current processes to do with and all of our proposals should be measured against this. Water does not belong to Councils or residents, perhaps those collecting/treating and using their own gathered supplies eg tanks are an exception. To meld a concept of farsightedness into our current model needs processes. policies and people that think further ahead than this season’s grain or dairy returns. We clearly don't have these people in positions of influence now as some water allocation decisions have profit at their heart.

    We have good regulations, we can always do better though, administered by a system of Councils that place a short term lens over water use. That being the case we need to change this focus away from economics, paraphrasing the Kennedy quote, to move from

    'what can our water do for us or what can we do with our water?' to 'what can we do for our water'

    Noting that water covers water for drinking and use, stormwater and sewerage management.

    Looking at T Smithfield's ideas

    1. A national standard for water quality.

    Who sets these? Room for Maori here?

    1. A requirement for councils to show regularly (annually/quarterly?) that they are meeting that standard.

    Who would they show, who would assess,

    1. A national fund that councils can apply to for upgrade work as necessary.

    Who would administer the fund? Who would be on the body? Where would the money come from?

    1. The government can take control of water assets out of the hands of councils that are not complying, for instance, by appointing commissioners.

    This is an option.

    I think these ideas are perfectly workable however they lack the aspirational focus and the recognition that water is a taonga and its use should be controlled as befits a taonga.

    I for one think that the current situation is a mess and we should step up to do better. We have not had a focus on water itself as taonga, only as an object. Who knows a careful taonga based approach may be the best way forward, at least it cannot be any worse than what we have now, and will probably be better.

    • Macro 14.1

      I for one think that the current situation is a mess and we should step up to do better. We have not had a focus on water itself as taonga, only as an object. Who knows a careful taonga based approach may be the best way forward, at least it cannot be any worse than what we have now, and will probably be better.


      I think mcuh of the commentary here completely overlooks the the point you raised in your quote above.

      Water is a taonga under article two of the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori assertion of their rights and interests in water is based on a legitimate claim of tino rangatiratanga over that taonga. We should not expect outsider to understand how important that is. The Treaty of Waitangi is the underlying foundation of the Crown-iwi relationship for all freshwater resources. We as a nation have to face up to meeting our Treaty obligations – not just because it is good for us as peoples, or because it is our founding constitutional document, but also in water because it is the best hope we have for improving our water as a whole.

  15. Mike the Lefty 15

    The political right like to make out that the Three Waters reforms are trying to give Maori control over water rights. Take that a step further and what they are implying is that once Maori have such control they will start charging Pakeha for using water. Pure race bait politics.

    I listened to a good programme on RNZ several months ago. I can't remember which one it was but it was very enlightening on how Maori value natural assets – like air, water, the land – different from pakeha. Pakeha often only value things that are scarce, whilst the Maori way is to do the opposite.

    If NZ’s natural assets are protected by more Maori governance, I say that is a good thing.

    • Bloo 15.1

      Did not work so well for the Moa

      • Ad 15.1.1

        Every single native bird species we have is now endangered – with many extinct since European colonisation. All our freshwater fish except eels are endangered as well.

  16. KJT 16

    The opposition to three waters basically comes down to "we will no longer be able to persuade our local old boys club/AKA council to let us pollute, degrade and take water at will". And Iwi and public control will make peacemeal, locality by locality, privatisation of supply and services much more difficult.

    There are some things which can be improved, but the idea is similar to how power supply was run, successfully and economically, by engineers and technicians, before Bradford stuffed it.

    • lprent 16.1

      There are some things which can be improved, but the idea is similar to how power supply was run, successfully and economically, by engineers and technicians, before Bradford stuffed it.

      Yeah. I think that is the important point.

      The current power system is a expensive shambles running with insufficient capacity, unreasonable and unexpected spikes in price for industry, and prices that are excessive at the residential level. Once you look at the actual power usage and prices, I'm paying close to double in total power costs that I had 25 years ago – even accounting for inflation. During that period my actual power consumption has fallen to about half because everything I have is far more energy efficient.

      Much better computer gear using way less power. Better insulation to the point that we seldom turn on heating (plus The Standard server provides most of my base heating). Microwaves and ovens that are massively better on power consumption. Much better hot water systems. LED lighting tat consumes a small fraction of the incandescent bulbs.

      Much of the Bradford 'reforms' caused over head costs that are largely in overhead marketing, admin, playing the electricity market costs, and providing pretty piss-poor services. It took forever for me to have power switched from a exiting tenant to me as owner last month.

      The generators mostly seem to function by revaluing old assets to make a dividend. The bulk of new capacity going in is in geothermal which hasn't really managed to replace

      Now those 'reforms' were a total rort.

      Water management should avoid that model. We should used the model that was used in electricity consolidation that pulled power generation from local councils in the early 20th century and provided electricity as a national service that created (amongst other things) our national grid that the generators are still relying on..

      Which is pretty much what the 3 waters proposal is.

      • KJT 16.1.1

        A power company executive said to me some time ago, that they were fleecing small domestic consumers to cover the costs of discounting to high volume customers.

        That hasn't changed, along with the costs of them suing each other, and the costs of advertising along with duplication of management structures.

  17. MickeyBoyle 17

    Many here obviously want Labour to lose the next election.

    • He Puapua
    • Co-governance
    • Three waters

    Are all election losers.

    National are racking in the cash from donors at alarming levels. I seriously believe many here and people in and around the leadership of Labour are not reading the room. Kiwis don't want this, and at the very least want a say on these issues. To try and bring it in by stealth or refuse to get off the stool and throw a few punches and debate the issues, is political suicide. If we are so positive that we are on the right path and this is what kiwis want, then surely there is no issue with having the debate and ultimately a referendum. But deep down we aren't so sure, are we…

    • Belladonna 17.1

      I would agree with this.

      I think that Labour have made a major strategic error in bundling co-governance in with water reform.
      Both are highly contentious issues (democracy and local vs regional control of resources). And, together, they look like a bridge too far in the eyes of the electorate.

      Water reform, itself, could well have been achieved using a national strategy – like NZTA partnership with individual local/regional councils. But, most importantly, working alongside local government, rather than riding roughshod over them.

      This has to be a major diplomatic fail for Mahuta. No matter how 'right' she may be, if she doesn't bring the rest of NZ with her, she's failed.

      The bizarre boundaries proposed for the 4 entities – reflecting 19th century tribal areas of influence, rather than actual watersheds – make it clear that a primary purpose is co-governance, rather than water management.

      Co-governance is a major change to the fabric of democracy in NZ. Really, there needs to be a referendum on this – because, otherwise, the next N/ACT government will simply reverse it.

      Much of NZ has watched with interest as various local/regional parks and resources have been transferred to Iwi ownership/management. And, in many cases been horrified at the rapid deterioration (ref Te Urewera/Waikaremoana; North Head tunnels here in Auckland) and/or ongoing dubious appointments to management boards (Roger Pikia to chair the Waikato Management Authority while he was under SFO investigation was a particularly egregious example).

      The particular concern has been that there is no mechanism to influence policy or get rid of obvious incompetents or grafters. Unlike local government, where it is possible every 3 years to vote out people who have clearly breached the implied contract with the people.

      I find it ironic, that it is the Left who are effectively advocating for an upper-house immune to the ballot box.

      • tsmithfield 17.1.1

        I agree. Although I have made a case for an alternative, I think something akin to Three Waters was a potential solution.

        But something so far reaching required a genuine consultation process from which the solution emerged rather than having it imposed as it is now.

      • Ad 17.1.2

        How big a change is co-governance?

        – In 1986 the fisheries Quota Management System was put in place, and as part of a Treaty deal Maori interests got half the fish take.

        – In all NZTA alliances there is an expectation that mana whenua will have at least 1 seat at the Board.

        – Most private corporates in NZ and all public sector entities have Maori on their Boards. A few of them even have majorities!

        – We've had the Maori Health Authority set up for the very good reason that Maori die faster and younger than the rest for over a century.

        – We've had Maori corporations and trusts in areas where they become the most powerful corporate player there – outside of Fonterra. Many are worth billions.

        – We've had Maori entities formed all across the public sector, often received as if they were a very good idea indeed.

        – We've had Maori seats in Parliament for over a century. Pretty useful on the whole.

      • Ad 17.1.3

        Singling out 1 Maori Chief Executive as evidence that 3 Waters represents an "egregious example" of Maori governance failure is just like saying Allan Hawkins failing Equiticorp means white people shouldn't run finance companies.

        • Belladonna

          Find an example of a non-Maori governance organization appointing a Chair who is actively under investigation by the SFO – and I'll agree with you.

          It's not that Pikia was investigated (and then charged) that's the issue – financial bad apples can happen within any organization – it's that he was still appointed to the board after the SFO named him as being investigated. This is not a trivial or irrelevant issue, and it does not inspire confidence in the decision-making of the iwi, here.

          • Ad

            Your example is about a DHB appointing a Maori. You conclude from that there is a problem with governance in 3 Waters. It's not relevant.

            It is remarkably easy to find good Maori leadership for the new water entities. Also just as Maori entities often employ Pakeha, the water entities do not have to have Maori Board members proposed by either iwi or local government.

            This is the same as it has been for the dozens and dozens of public and private entities who have Maori leaders. But one should expect political commentary and pressure about the new appointees – because of the degree of power they hold. And that is as it should be.

            Certainly the qualifications of the appointees is a non-trivial matter. If you want to get into it you can see the care and detail that has been enframed around the appointment processes.

            • Belladonna

              No. My example is about Roger Pikia on the Waikato River Authority – which is directly relevant to water management.


              However, the general point is that, given we have no history to base 3 Waters governance off – we can only extrapolate from existing Maori appointed representatives on co-governance boards. And I'm pointing out that this has been …. problematic … in the past.

              If you can point to anything in the proposed 3 waters governance structure controlling (in any way) the representation that Iwi choose to put forward, then I would be interested to see it. My understanding is that Iwi are the sole arbiters of the Iwi board membership.

              • Ad

                Thanks for the Pikia clarification.

                Maori appointments to public boards are sometimes controversial I grant that. Often that controversy is generated by Maori themselves. We shouldn't be afraid of that.

                Having different governance models throughout the public sector and the corporate sector in New Zealand – as I listed above – shows that on the whole we have many models and qualified people to draw from. We should expect a new model that reflects our people and our land, quite different from what's gone before.

                There is no doubt that this model is different. So were all the others I listed. To add to those:

                – All of the major post-Settlement entities were new, and all the major ones successful.

                – All the national parks have heavy iwi involvement in governance and conservation plan decisions

                – Both the Whanganui and Waikato arrangements with iwi have been pretty remarkable. Whanganui's Te Awa Tupua is a fairly strong and also globally unique arrangement.

                Microsoft Word – 3448412_1.docx (treasury.govt.nz)

                The Waikato-Tainui one was signed in 2010 and extended in 2012. They were front and centre when Goff had to ask them to come to the rescue 2 years ago.

                Waikato River and Waipā River co-management | Waikato Regional Council

        • KJT

          As a counter we could point to the mismanagement of water quality both into and out of the system in favour of a few vested interests by local councils, and the huge costs to ratepayers of fixing it.

          Like the future need to chlorinate in more places due to ground water contamination.

    • roblogic 17.2

      Kiwis do want this. Farmers are not the only New Zealanders. We don't want children to grow up in cities with constant sewerage problems, contaminated water, and flooding every time it rains.

      When Jacinda said that Climate Change is a nuclear moment, well this is an important way of dealing with it. NZ should ignore the small minded and selfish little munters on talkback radio who do not want to face hard problems.

      • swordfish 17.2.1


        Kiwis do want this

        Wouldn't have thought so:

        Minority public support for 3 Waters in all three recent Polls (including minority support among Labour & Green voters):

        Support 3 Waters Reform:

        (TV1 Kantar Poll) Entire Sample 26% / Lab voters 40%

        (Newshub Reid Research) Entire Sample 27% / Lab voters 40%

        (Curia Poll) Entire Sample 19% / Lab voters 28% / Greens 31%

        So, the Government (aided by allies in the media & blogosphere) is reduced to trying to convince the relatively hefty number of Don't Knows (24-35% depending on the specific Poll). Particularly Labour voters, Women & Māori, all of whom are more likely than average to be Undecided on the issue according to polling.

      • MickeyBoyle 17.2.2

        If you are so convinced that this is what kiwis want, when no poll I have seen has supported that view, then you will gladly be in support of the debate and ultimately a referendum right?

        If Labour pushes this through, expect an almighty backlash, which is already slowly bubbling away. This is undoubtedly an election loser. I hope people on the left wake up to that reality sooner rather than later.

        • roblogic

          Well yeah there's already been a disgusting outbreak of protests and convoys about all sorts of things. But we should combat the fearmongering and misinformation, not give in to it. FFS this is important.

        • Ad

          The local government elections coming this year will be a good indicator.

          If this government really thinks it needs another mandate test, they could always shunt it to the next general election.

          But then if Labour loses in late 2023, you can kiss goodbye our fresh water for ever. No one will try again.

          • MickeyBoyle

            Luxon and National have already said they will repeal this legislation. Why is Labour so determined to waste political capital on this? Especially when from what I'm seeing, it's a vote loser.

          • Patricia Bremner

            I agree Ad, if we get this discussed and publish town and country water states, then people will compare and contrast current thinking with what is on offer.

            Not all Farmers agree with groundswell, that is why they are now distancing themselves from the "nutters.'

        • KJT

          Are we going to cave to every storm of self interested lies, mis information and outright propaganda from self interested vested interests?.

          And achieve, nothing.

          That doesn't get votes, either.

  18. Brilliant writing, Advantage. All your points are reinforced by the professional engineer's association, "Engineering NZ" (formerly IPENZ). They also highlight the impact of Climate Change, and the increasing demand on stormwater due to the now-common "100-year" storms and flooding.

    I find that right-wing objections boil down to money and power. The status quo suits them fine. Which is incredibly irresponsible considering the urgent need to invest $30 to $50 billion over the next 15 years to maintain and renew capacity.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg:

    The Havelock North Inquiry found the town’s drinking water contamination in August 2016 was far from an isolated incident. It estimated New Zealand experiences as many as 100,000 cases a year of sporadic illness from drinking water contamination. It found that about 20 percent of people on town supply are drinking water that is “not demonstrably safe”. In June 2018, the Ministry of Health released its own report confirming that nearly 20 percent of New Zealanders were receiving reticulated water that failed to meet drinking water standards.

    But the effects of contamination are often masked. As the Inquiry discussed, people may not realise unclean drinking water caused their illness. Sporadic incidents may not be detected by authorities or come to public attention. The Inquiry revealed that monitoring and reporting has been inadequate, maintenance neglected, accountability dispersed and regulation not fully effective



    • grumpy 18.1

      Looks like Engineering NZ are heading the same way as the Royal Society.

      • Ad 18.1.1

        Something similar has worked for our fisheries since 1986.

        Remember when we lost the election because Maori got half the fish? Me neither.

        You have nothing to fear but losing your privilege.

        • grumpy

          Engineering NZ do not endorse 3 Waters. They emphasise a stronger Regulatory framework, Smart Metering to enable charging and universal chlorination.

          In short, basic engineering stuff without the politics.

          • roblogic

            They also point out that the current governance model is useless… i.e. the Councils suck, and can't afford to do basic maintenance. They want to keep "ownership" but not pay to fix the problems.

            • Grumpy

              Many electricity networks also "suck" but no impetus to nationalise them – which IMHO would be a Very Good Idea.

              • roblogic

                Agreed on that point. The corporate SOE model has been worse for the ordinary Kiwi, but great for monopolistic super profits to overseas investors.

          • Ad

            Really? Don't support the new regulator?

            Don't support Te Mana O Te Wai?

            Refreshing water | Engineering NZ

            • roblogic

              Good link. The 3 Waters projects will also create thousands of new jobs.

              Allan cites the Scotland experience, where water reforms produced 4,000 jobs, many of them engineering roles. “There will be far more specialisation and career pathways in the new water organisations. The other thing is that water will now get the investment it has long needed without having to compete with other council services. That will surely be welcomed by engineers.”

              • grumpy

                See Poission’s comment re. Scottish Water at 1.

                Is that what we want?

                • roblogic

                  Easy way to avoid that situation is not voting for the SNP

                • Ad

                  We got similar tiresome nonsense from Castalia early on;

                  Water sector amalgamation: Is New Zealand really like Scotland? – Castalia (castalia-advisors.com)

                  "If New Zealand is to achieve the cost savings that WICS says have occurred in Scotland, then these key differences in the geography must be acknowledged. The distances between New Zealand towns mean that any benefit of physical joining of networks will not be justified due to the cost of transporting water (pipes and pumps). Water is valuable, but unlike oil and electricity, its value-to-weight ratio is low. To get economies of scale in water networks, network mergers only make sense where communities are close enough so that the transport costs of moving water, chemicals, and water engineering and technical staff from one place to the other are low."

                  They were right by people-population density.

                  But otherwise wrong. Most of our fresh water is managed and used by just 3 things: dairy, Auckland, and hydro.

                  • Expanding Watercare to including Northland requires little except taking on assets about as big as Takapuna.
                  • In the South Island there are massive network connections already in place through dairy irrigation and hydro. Plus dairy intensity.
                  • Entity B is suitably dominated by the Waikato catchments. Plus dairy intensity.
                  • Entity C will I expect focus most of its time ensuring no further raw shit pours into Wellington harbour.
          • Ad

            Engineering NZ's submission to the Water Services Bill says that they completely endorse it.

            Refreshing water | Engineering NZ

          • Graeme

            They emphasise a stronger Regulatory framework, Smart Metering to enable charging and universal chlorination.

            I'd much rather front up to a public meeting of ratepayers and try and sell 3 Waters than try and sell Smart metering to enable charging and universal chlorination.

            I've seen several meetings of water users that were going quite well turn into near lynchings of Council staff / scheme management when the subject of metering or chlorination dropped out.

  19. Subliminal 19

    Bloody awesome article. We absolutely must do this. Many have criticised the Labour party for not using their majority for something worthwhile. Here we have a fix for water quality and a nice shift into the co governence demanded by our Treaty and the signing of the convention on indigenous rights. This is something transformative in the way we view ownership and rights as well as finally taking water quality seriously. Something to proudly stand up for.

    • roblogic 19.1

      Exactly. It’s a great plan, and investment into the future. NZ needs this.

      Opposition to the reforms is just bloodymindedness, with a dash of racism. The critics have no alternative plan. They want to do nothing and let the country rot.

  20. thebiggestfish 20

    Great article. I am 100% behind central government stepping in to sort out the underinvestment in our water infrastructure. But 100% against giving control whether via ownership or governorship to individuals based on race based quotas. Seems an easy win for labour to get rid of that part of the proposal to get this across the line with majority support.

    • KJT 20.1

      Ownership remains public.

      Iwi become part of the responsibility for guardianship.

      Something which mostly Pakeha councils have failed.

  21. DukeEll 21

    The problem with Three waters is that there is no single project of national significance or benefit associated with making the change. It's simply centralisation that has been determined by the labour government to be what it thinks is the best model of management.

    There is a lot of management and financial management syntax around what it will supposedly deliver. If this was national, nationlising water assets around the country and using this language, those telling us it must happen would be telling us it must not. People are sceptical

    • Ad 21.1

      If National gets in next time, there will never again be another attempt at large scale water reform – unless it is the full Max Bradford route and it is sufficiently commercialised to sell it off. None of our fresh water fish will survive.

      • roblogic 21.1.1

        God forbid. National will follow the Tory model of asset stripping and giving a free pass to polluters.

      • Belladonna 21.1.2

        In which case, Labour should be seriously looking at:

        A) Ditching the co-governance scheme (which is a bridge too far for the majority of NZ – even Labour voters – witness polls above)

        B) Re-organizing the 'entities' based on watersheds, rather than 19th century tribal boundaries (one of them is on both sides of the Cook Strait – for heaven’s sake)

        C) Working *with* Councils, rather than against them. Which will almost certainly see Mahuta move out of this portfolio – the ground is scorched, where she's concerned.

        If water is the actual number 1 priority here, then remove the extraneous stuff, and concentrate on bringing NZ with the Government, rather than imposing solutions by fiat.

        Because, right now, the Government have been given really strong signals that NZ is not with them. Labour really could lose the election over this…

        • KJT

          Councils have made it clear in most cases, that they will not put public interest first.
          Hard to see how “working with councils” will change anything much.

          Which is not surprising as councils are mostly comprised of those who have the time and money to stand, to protect their own interests.

          • Belladonna

            All this disdain for democracy….

            Most councils in NZ are left-leaning – especially the large ones (Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington – all have Left mayors and a healthy chunk of Left councillors.

            Most local councillors aren't significantly independently wealthy.

            Most elected representatives do their best to make choices which benefit the majority of the people they represent.

            Is it that you don't trust the electorate to make the right choices?

            There's a name for that form of government, and it's not one that I care to sign up for.

            • Ad

              None of that is true. Most Councils have joined up to oppose this, most Councils are rural and National-dominated. Auckland is centrist, and tips one way or other depending on who shows up.

            • KJT

              Not correct.

              And I've long been an advocate for Democracy.

              Which is not as we have now, getting a choice of the least worse "representatives" every three years

              • pat

                So the cure for a lack of democracy is less democracy?

                • KJT

                  Not at all.

                  The public should get to vote on policy, not on people to decide policy.

                  What we have is a fantasy of Democracy which keeps our Oligarchs with the real power.

                  • pat

                    If the people implementing policy (or not) are not there at the pleasure of a general vote then there is no democracy…..our oligarchs (your descriptor) cannot remain in the face of a majority vote….that they remain is an indication that the majority are ambivalent but the power and means remain available.

            • KJT

              Auckland council is left, only in name.

              Geoff was part of the Neo-liberal takeover, for one.

      • DukeEll 21.1.3

        Which is all hypothetical. And doesn't make anyone feel better about central government encroachment on locally owned assets for no visible benefit but vague promises

  22. Ross 22

    A diagram of how 3 Waters will work. I've been assured that Mickey Mouse didn't create it. That's reassuring.

    I had pull out my magnifying glass to see a reference to customers. Clearly, customers are at the front and centre of this reform.


  23. Di Trower 23

    I'm surprised you are so supportive of a very neoliberal piece of legislation. Dame Anne Salmond offers some very good insights and criticisms of the proposed Three Waters strategy here: https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/news/2021/12/22/anne-salmond-three-waters-and-te-tiriti.html

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