Get ready for your water to be privatised

Written By: - Date published: 10:39 am, February 17th, 2024 - 124 comments
Categories: assets, Environment, Privatisation, privatisation, simeon brown, uk politics, uncategorized, water - Tags:

This week National has passed legislation through Parliament dismantling Three Waters.

I have always struggled to understand its opposition. The country’s water systems are in very poor shape. Far too many people have been poisoned. The infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes. In our major cities water and sewerage pipes that should have been replaced years ago have succumbed to old age and are collapsing at a remarkable rate. And there is currently not the faintest hope that the various water systems will be improved to make them resilient to climate change.

But somehow National and its partners persuaded many Kiwis that dealing with these existential threats was a bad thing.

The biggest source of angst and the driver of the anti 3 waters campaign was the possibility that Māori  would be given too many rights over water.

Which ignores the fact that Māori has a significant interest in water.

After all article two of the Treaty of Waitangi preserved to Māori rangatiratanga over their their lands, forests, and fisheries and other taonga. And what greater taonga could there be than water?

Even National acknowledges Iwi rights to and interests in water.

But the dogwhistle possibly Atlas funded campaigns against Three Waters worked. It was assisted by some rather expensive litigation by the Water Users Group which was fronted by Stephen Franks and Brigitte Moreton. I still cannot understand why she was permitted as the lawyer involved to comment repeatedly on the issue on state owned Radio New Zealand. Ultimately the litigation failed but politically the damage was done.

I checked out the Water User Group’s records to see how much it paid in legal fees during this year. The Group is meant to upload this information but for some reason chose to file its tax return instead.

The Government’s reversal of three waters is the latest example of its activity in cancelling something but having nothing to replace it with.

Simeon Brown’s and National’s alternative proposal is to let Councils sort it out themselves. Essentially sink or swim and some of the smaller local authorities may be doing more sinking than swimming.

From Giles Dexter at Radio New Zealand:

Brown confirmed the government would not underwrite the organisations, and it was now up to councils to set up the CCOs and achieve the balance sheet separation required to borrow more money.

He said while the government would give councils the tools and policy settings, water was a local government responsibility.

“If they set themselves up in the right way, with multiple councils being part of it, they will be able to be balance sheet separated to have that long-term funding and finance arrangements in place. There’s a range of options around how they do that, this is about setting the policies, and then they take responsibility for that investment in the long term.

But this ignores the fact that some of the smallest Councils that have the most problems will not be able to enter into arrangements with better resourced neighbours. Which Council in its right mind would enter into an arrangement with a neighbouring council with a small population but a big potential liability?

This very scenario was put to Brown who chose to respond by not addressing the issue.

From Craig McCulloch at Radio New Zealand:

Some mayors like Manawatū’s Helen Worboys are confident they will get by, but others fear being left out in the cold – like Buller District’s Jamie Cleine, who suspects the West Coast will need to combine with Canterbury.  

“Under the current Local Government Act settings, it’s pretty hard for a mayor to do anything that’s a negative impact on his own ratepayers, so it’s hard to imagine why they would voluntarily want to do that,” he said.

Morning Report host Corin Dann pushed the minister on this point, but Brown said those were “conversations that we expect councils to be having as they put forward their plans for financial sustainability … those conversations will be led by councils in the first instance”. After repeated questioning, Brown said it was only “hypothetical at this stage” and pointed again to those regulatory backstops. 

National has the expectation that there will be a magic money tree that will produce the necessary resources. And saying that clearly emerging fiscal problems are “hypothetical” at this stage is ludicrous.

And I have a growing fear that privatisation will be one of the options the Government will consider. After all running down the quality of of public assets and then selling them off cheaply is straight out of the Atlas playbook.

The evidence of what is planned is not hard to find.

How about this statement taken from National’s water policy document:

“[T]he requirement to ensure water infrastructure is not holding up the development of new housing means councils may need to gain access to new forms of infrastructure funding and financing. National is fully committed to facilitating this and will work with councils to achieve it.”

Or that National is promising to local councils only “limited one-off funding to bridge the gap”.

And what about this statement?

“If councils can demonstrate an alternative [to regional CCOs or any other model] that complies with regulations for both water quality and water infrastructure, and is financially sustainable, National will approve it.”

Get the feeling that some sort of fancy arrangement which involves some form of privatisation may be on the drawing board?

And how about this?

Castalia is the firm that infamously analysed National’s tax policies and thought they were fine. It also worked for the anti three waters councils and produced this report where it said this about Papakura District Council’s earlier attempt to privatise its services.

Delegation of services to a specialist provider in Papakura delivered continuous high drinking water outcomes and low bills with high levels of customer satisfaction. The council avoided costs of water provision and gained access to a highly specialised global firm. The financing of new local network infrastructure is fully provided by developers, rather than partially by councils as is the case in some areas of New Zealand.

I don’t know which Papakura it was talking about because in 2002 the Papakura District Council resolved to review the contract after the local water quality was downgraded from a B to a D.

And here is where things start to get really worrying, Castalia’s Managing Director Andreas Heuser has been appointed the chair of the Technical Advisory Group recently appointed by Brown to guide the Government on its implementation of the replacement for Three Waters.

There is of course an overseas example which provides exquisite evidence showing the shortfalls of privatisation.

In England water was privatised in 1989. Scotland retained public ownership of its water systems and instead created Scottish Water, a model which the Labour Government based three waters on.

In this paper by Steve Finnemore and Nicky Smallberger published on Water NZ’s website the authors reviewed the relative performance of the water sector in England and in Wales. They state:

Scotland took a very different approach to water reform than England and Wales, which may have been due to the political environment of the time and jurisdiction. The England and Wales water sector was privatised during the third term of the Conservative Thatcher Government. Water reform in Scotland was at the end of the first term of the Labour Blair Government and was following the levy of a Windfall Tax on privatized companies.

In 2002, a single publically owned water corporation was formed through the merger of the West, East and North Scotland Water Authorities. This statutory authority was named Scottish Water and is 100% owned by the Scottish Government.

Scottish Water operates in close consultation with the Scottish Government. National policy and guidance to the industry is provided by the Scottish Government through the “Quality and Standards” planning process. This process provides targets for improvements in the industry expressed as “Ministers’ Objectives”.

Funding for achieving the targets is provided through water rates and long term loans from the Scottish
Government. Economic regulation is provided by The Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) who establish the “lowest overall reasonable cost”, benchmarked against the private water companies in England and Wales. The Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) provide drinking water quality and environmental regulation.

Scottish Water has achieved similar drinking water quality and environmental performance gains as England and Wales as well as lifting customer service levels and at a lower cost to the consumer.

And about the English performance the authors state:

It soon became evident that the price reviews negotiated between [the Water Services Regulation Authority] and the individual water companies had been excessive, and enabled the companies not only to invest to meet the European Directives, but also gave them the financial strength to diversify into other activities (such as solid waste management) and other jurisdictions.

We are now in a situation where we have a future looking water policy that has been wrecked for political reasons, a Government that is insisting that Local Government sorts out a problem that is too big for many TLAs, and an inclination to look to the private sector for solutions that will clearly come at a price.

And in the meantime Local Government is facing the prospect of severe rates increases to pay to fix up our pipes and make sure we do not keep poisoning locals.

Hang on, this is going to get rough.

124 comments on “Get ready for your water to be privatised ”

  1. Tony Veitch 1

    I would like (but I'm not holding my breath) for a joint statement by Labour, the Greens and TPM saying, quite explicitly that:

    a Left-leaning government would nationalise any recently sold, privately owned water resources without compensation upon coming to power!

    • bwaghorn 1.1

      Labpurs lead by chippie, say no more, the greens are about to lose their brain, bye James, and Maori party want it all, so good luck there.

      • newsense 1.1.1

        NZ isn’t worth saving.

        There’s nothing special about us, though sometimes we get to push to the front of the queue because of our curiosity factor.

        We had our commitment to our society, fairness, opportunity and a chance to live free, because we fought for it.

        Hipkins is the most openly right wing Labour leader for several generations.

        And on the government benches we are seeing international conservative goals, 19thC moral attitudes on wealth and poverty, and all kinds of minor corruption. Luxon is a girl who can’t say no. Imagine how crazy the world is when Winston Peters provides your grounded perspective.

        NZ can be destroyed by a creeping attack of Fox News and beyond media. We were just lucky not to have it before. It wasn’t that we were particularly virtuous. Just that the editors of the Herald and Stuff decided not to run damaging lies that were an ideological position. Next time we won’t be that lucky.

        This is a government reminiscent of free wheeling Rogernomes who don’t really know what they’re doing, but with the twist of the Atlas mob in the background.

        And their popularity is up. NZ isn’t worth saving.

        • Incognito

          Luxon is a girl who can’t say no.

          If you’d said “child” instead of “girl” then you’d have avoided the sexist undertone.

          And their popularity is up.

          What’s the basis of your claim? For example, the opinion polls since the GE-2023 don’t lend support to it.

          • newsense

            I guess it’s a reference to an old song from an old musical. I say you’d find em all doing the Lambeth walk, but it conveys none of the meaning and is far too jolly.

            As to the popularity being up- again I guess I didn’t read past the headlines I. the online reports of polls in recent days. That’s what they said.

      • Robert Guyton 1.1.2


  2. Thanks for putting all this together. They really aren't hiding their agenda very well.

    I really hope the NZ public isn't so poisoned by right wing narratives that they just allow this to slip by.

    It seemed like one tipping point of the last election was fear of Māori taking control of water. Perhaps the prospect of privatisation and outsourcing to remote oligarchs will finally make people realise they were duped by 3 Wankers.

    A few obnoxious RWNJ's have been loudly broadcasting their desire for Mowrees to shut up and get back, but I think most Kiwis are better than that.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    Hang out local government to dry by defunding any state support, blame unspecified "prolifigate spending" for massive rates rise, preset privatization as TINA to save voters money.

    It would explain why National is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on the the treaty – defanging Maori treaty rights would be necessary to allow privatization.

  4. If the Government try to privatize 3 Waters, I am fairly sure the WAI2358 claim on water and geothermal resources will be complicated. Stage 1 is complete and Stage 2 was meant to be down by 2019. Stage 3 does not yet have a due date for a report, so I assume it is still a work in progress.

    David Seymour and Shane Jones are probably okay with upsetting the apple cart, but what will the reaction be in te ao Maori?

  5. Robert Guyton 5

    Mickey – how do we "get ready"?

  6. Yes Roblogic I think you are correct that 3W was hugely influential for voters in the last election.

    Everyone would have understood the need to reform this infrastructure and gone along with it if Labour had not made these errors:

    1. The initial advertising was misleading and inaccurate.

    2. Nanaia Mahuta should never have claimed that Maori involvement was a Treaty requirement. And that she had this advice from Crown Law.

    3. Many found the claims that Maori value water and the environment more than others as offensive.

    4. Giving control of water to a group of unelected and unaccountable people looked a lot like privatisation.

    5. Gifting 1.2 billion dollars to Councils who supported 3W to mainly spend on what they chose looked a lot like desperation.

    6. Many simply believed that Maori would clip the ticket on every litre of water used by households and no one would stand and say that this was unlikely to happen.

    • roblogic 6.1

      Those 6 objections may well have been in people's minds, and yes they were not addressed effectively, but they are also generally incorrect.

      I don't know much about (1) the initial advertising but (2,3) Mahuta was completely right to claim Māori interest in water. The governance model (4) and the whole process of developing the 3W programme was public and democratic. Unfortunately there were many councils (notably Auckland) who were not on board and perhaps the government should have sweetened the pot for them. I dunno. The reason why our water supplies are in a dire state is because (5) most councils are broke and desperate for funds – and the other part is neglect and self-interest by a landowner class who don't want to pay rates. As for (6) yes there were all sorts of crazy theories floating around of Māori elites and nefarious undemocratic schemes. Shame that a much worse violation of democracy – asset sales and control by foreign oligarchs – isn't seen as a more realistic threat.

      I think that behind the objections, was a breakdown in trust between the government and the people, which was expressed in a passive-aggressive fashion, by making up conspiracy theories against Māori. National/Luxo/Seymour/etc chose a cynical and dark path to gaining power, one which even John Key didn't take. (Brash tried to but failed)

    • mickysavage 6.2

      "Nanaia Mahuta should never have claimed that Maori involvement was a Treaty requirement. And that she had this advice from Crown Law."

      Even National acknowledges Iwi rights to and interests in water.

      Of course this is a treaty issue. Explain to me after reading article 2 how it could not be,

      • Article 2 doesn't mention water.

        "The Second
        The Queen of England agrees to protect the chiefs, the subtribes and all the people of New Zealand in the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures. But on the other hand the chiefs of the Confederation and all the chiefs will sell land to the Queen at a price agreed to by the person owning it and by the person buying it (the latter being) appointed by the Queen as her purchase agent."

        The Crown Law Office never confirmed Mahutas' claim that they had given advice that co Governance was a Treaty requirement as far as I know.

        • roblogic

          All Crown entities (in that search query) accept that Māori have legitimate claims, some go even further and say that Māori have ownership of water.

          Much as some people would prefer to rewrite history and continue the colonial tradition of confiscation without compensation.

          • Michael Scott

            RL if Maori have legitimate claims to water – or ownership of the water- then we need to enshrine them in law.

            This is where 3W went off the tracks. The Waitangi Tribunal acts in an advisory capacity- it can't pass legislation.

            Water is obviously a taonga to every culture. Three days without it and we die.

            Some Maori claim the air is a taonga.

            I would suggest sewerage pipes are not a Taonga.

            The two major claims settled with aspects of Co governance are legislated by the Parliament.

            So called "legitimate claims" that are not law are open to dispute.

            The law gives clarity and certainty.

            • roblogic

              IMHO Māori claims are even more important now, as they impede Seymour's scheme to force Councils to sell off their assets,

              Agree that law can help clarify matters – so why not honour Te Tiriti instead of trying to weasel out of it

              • Absolutely Roblogic lets honour the Treaty.

                Did Maori cede sovereignty?

                Do you see it as a partnership? If so fight to get it into law.

                No court has so far ever suggested or ruled the Treaty is a partnership.

                Do you see the Treaty as a document outlining rights for New Zealanders to citizenship or property?

                Lets define these rights and enshrine them in law.

                To me the Treaty reads as giving us different rights depending whether we are Maori or not.

                Why don't we sort it out

                • roblogic

                  Don't play dumb. The Treaty has been a major feature of public debate and legislation for 50 years and there are lots of precedents and opinions if you go and look it up for yourself.

                  Sir Geoffrey Palmer attempted such with his proposed constitution 20 odd years ago, and further work was undertaken by Matike Mai Aotearoa (252 hui across the country)


                • roblogic

                  …Seymour 's talk about establishing principles is just posturing and ignoring 50 years of jurisprudence. Wasting time and money so he can try for a dishonestly framed referendum in a transparent attempt to wipe out Te Tiriti.

                  It is thinly veiled racism used to undermine Māori and pillage our tāonga

                  • The point I am trying to make is that if we don't agree as a society about what the Treaty says it harms Maori.

                    If it continues undefined it hurts Maori.

                    Some say this Some say that. Factions form. Accusations of racism fill the place

                    The Matike Mai report is a serious work and could be used as the basis for constitutional change.

                    Dr Claire Charters gives some good background in this piece that helps


                    • roblogic

                      Stop trying to fuck with Te Tiriti! Is that simple enough?

                    • Dolomedes III []

                      Stop trying to fuck with the treaty? You should have said that to Robin Cooke and Geoffrey Palmer in the 1980s. How likely is it that the superpower of the 19th century would go into partnership with 100K indigenous people?

                    • Robert Guyton

                      But Michael is expressing his genuine concern for the native peoples of New Zealand!

                    • roblogic

                      What twaddle. A series of falsehoods in order to serve a political goal of trashing indigenous rights.

                      >if we don't agree as a society about what the Treaty says it harms Māori.

                      Wrong. ACT is currently trying to harm Māori by their anti Treaty campaign. This is just a dishonest framing

                      >If it continues undefined it hurts Māori.

                      Pure bullshit, and a shameful thing for a New Zealander to say. Te Tiriti is not undefined. Go up to Waitangi Marae and educate yourself.

                      >Some say this Some say that. Factions form. Accusations of racism fill the place

                      Nahh it's just ACT and Groundswell and their dubious Atlas mates trying to stir up trouble and fear because they don't have any policies to actually build up this country.

                      >The Matike Mai report is a serious work and could be used as the basis for constitutional change.

                      Sure, but that doesn't work by throwing out the Treaty and trying to sideline Māori.

                      >Dr Claire Charters gives some good background…

                      LOL that piece doesn't say what you think it does.

                      Something we don’t talk about much in mainstream public law circles is the basis of the Crown’s claim to sovereignty in this country.

                    • roblogic


                      >How likely is it that the superpower of the 19th century would go into partnership with 100K indigenous people?

                      I think there were only ~3000 settlers in 1840. The 1837 British Government Instructions to Capt William Hobson elaborates the reason for establishing a British government representative – to restrain unruly settlers and sailors, not to dispossess Māori

                      the increase of national wealth and power promised by the acquisition of New Zealand, would be a most inadequate compensation for the injury which must be inflicted on this Kingdom itself, by embarking in a measure essentially unjust, but too certainly fraught with calamity to a numerous and inoffensive people, whose title to the soil and to the Sovereignty of New Zealand is indisputable, and has been solemnly recognised by the British Gov[ernmen]t. We retain these opinions in unimpaired force;

                    • weka []

                      Also, the Brits didn’t want a protracted war they couldn’t afford to deal with. It made more sense at that time to have a Treaty.

        • mickysavage

          Article 2 doesn't mention water.

          So when article 2 mentions Taonga or treasures it did not include water which even then was probably the most important Taonga? And fisheries are included but not water?

          Please try harder. Much harder.

          • Michael Scott

            Micky , as I'm sure you know, the Maori version of the Treaty does not mention fisheries.

            • weka

              not sure if you are missing the point or being obtuse, but the Crown has acknowledged that fisheries is included in the Treaty. So why not water?

              If you want to make the argument that fisheries shouldn't be included, just make the argument.

              • Weka I'm not trying to be obtuse.

                I'm not a lawyer or academic. I want the best for all of us.

                My argument is that we need to agree what the Treaty says or it will cause more and more division.

                "The Crown has acknowledged that fisheries are included in the Treaty"

                Hallelujah! We have legal agreed authority to give Maori fishing quota and boats that will benefit them.

                My question is why don't we do this with water etc so we can move on

                • Robert Guyton

                  Beads and blankets too?

                • weka

                  The fishing quota was a neoliberal fuckery that paid little heed to kaupapa Māori or any sensible ideas about sustainability and life. It's the kind of thing that happens when the people in charge think money is the most important thing.

                  The Treaty fisheries settlement built on that, and happened at a time when Māori had to fight so hard to even get limited rights. And it was a terrible process for Māori


                  The whole system is anti life and we are still over-fishing

                  We most definitely shouldn't be taking that approach to water. Water is life.

                • roblogic

                  The Treaty isn't causing division. A bunch of right wing arseholes used divisive rhetoric to sway the election, and they are still doing it much like yourself.

                  "Just asking questions" like Mike Hosking. It's an annoying and lazy tactic

                • Robert Guyton

                  "My argument is that we need to agree what the Treaty says or it will cause more and more division."

                  ACT then, can disagree till they get what they want?

                  Until then, causing "more and more division" is the fault of those who just won't agree with ACT?


                  • weka

                    I'm not sure that is what Michael is saying. He said we could treat water like the fisheries settlement, which suggests giving Iwi some kind of vested commercial interest.

                    • Descendant Of Smith

                      They don't want a commercial interest they want clean water, including food source locations, protected for future generations.

                      Capitalism struggles with the notion that it isn't about the money.

                    • weka []

                      exactly. I pointed out the problem with the fisheries settlement above. We are incredibly fortunate that Māori are here and strong and having influence. Look at the UK where they were pouring their shit into the local rivers. FJK’s National government thought wadable rivers were sufficient. How the fuck did we come to this?

                      (my point to RG was that Michael might be expressing something more centrist rather than ACToid).

                    • Robert Guyton

                      "… giving Iwi some kind of vested commercial interest"?

                      (My bold)

                    • Robert Guyton

                      He might be, weka, but that's not how I'm reading his comments.

                    • I'm simply saying that the Treaty means different things to different people. Especially Maori.

                      On 6 Feb I joined the hikoi at Waitangi and carried my sign Toitu te Tiriti. It was great fun. Wonderful people and a wonderful day.

                      Roblogic says to stop asking questions about the Treaty and simply honour it. I think the Maori King was expressing the same frustrated sentiment when he said something like look- the Treaty has no principles- just three articles. Honour it!

                      The big question is did Maori concede sovereignty or not.

                      The answer to that question changes the way we can move forward

                      But in a good way for all of us

                    • weka []

                      The big question is did Maori concede sovereignty or not.

                      I don’t think so. It’s been pointed out that no peoples give up sovereignty willingly. Can you think of other examples where that has happened?

                      The question you brought to the debate is one that is being used by RW political parties and others in a power grab.

                • mickysavage

                  My argument is that we need to agree what the Treaty says or it will cause more and more division.

                  But this gives you a veto to exclude water when it is abundantly clear that it should be included.

              • Dolomedes III

                If the crown has "acknowledged" that fisheries are included in the treaty, despite no mention in the actual treaty, then the crown has (to borrow roblogic's turn of phrase) "fucked with the treaty".

                • weka

                  what do you mean "if"?


                  If you don't understand that we have 50 years of Treaty settlements, I'm not sure you can meaningfully take part in this conversation.

                  If on the other hand, you do understand that we have 50 years of Treaty settlements, and you want to negate that half century and reset the Treaty to zero, please just say so.

                  • Dolomedes III

                    Neither of the above. I'm merely pointing out the disingenuousness of the command "Don't fuck with the treaty!". We've been fucking with it for a long time.

                    • roblogic

                      I was annoyed at the spammy commenter who claimed ignorance as a strategy to bulldoze long-established legal precedents.

                      It didn’t seem to be a good faith exchange.

                    • weka

                      We've been fucking with it for a long time.

                      what does that mean in real terms?

                    • Robert Guyton

                      He must mean lawyers and the courts. His is a very cynical way of describing law making in New Zealand.

                      Roblogic, otoh, chooses the correct wording to describe what Seymour et al are attempting to do.

        • Mad Plumber

          If you are going to refer to the treaty Article 2 and quote from it please do get it correct. For those who are interested The English Text of the Treaty of Waitangi by Ned Fletcher p325 chapter 18 Drafting the Treaty.

    • Mikey 6.3

      The government of the day clearly did a poor job of showing how 3 waters would benefit voters. Why they didn't focus on that, and expose the agenda of the rural opposition, is beyond me.

      • Robert Guyton 6.3.1

        3 Waters was a proposal that required good faith from all parties to produce a vehicle for water management that would help all New Zealanders.

        Labour's mistake was not recognising the depth of the bad faith that was to flow from other parties and their subsidiaries.

        • mickysavage


        • weka


          by the time I started trying to get my head around 3 Waters, by reading some introductory materials, the only things I could find online were lots written by lefties reacting against NACT/farmers/the rabbit hole people and/or saying that concerns about 3 Waters were racist, and PR pieces from the government that were clearly written not to inform but to convince.

          In addition to underestimating the nature of the opposition, the other mistake Labour made was to adopt a paternalistic approach. They really did seem to misread the room and not take the time to bring people along. Yes, the right and vested interests were doing their damnedest to undermine Labour, but Ardern's government really didn't seem to understand that you cannot force people to change on something this fundamental.

          They botched co-governance in that regard and that was intrinsically tied up with people's feelings about 3 Waters.

          • Robert Guyton

            "In addition to underestimating the nature of the opposition, the other mistake Labour made…"

            Yeah, kinda like Jesus, I suppose. Didn't read Herod's room well at all: gotta shoulder the blame for that, JC!

            • weka

              Labour weren't a victim here, the public were. The not reading the room wasn't about the opposition, it was about the much larger group of people trying to get their heads around a very complex, intersecting set of policies and changes and Labour not understanding how to engage with them.

              I don’t blame Labour in the way you are implying. Like Anne, I’m just scratching my head as to why this is such a big block.

          • Anne

            In addition to underestimating the nature of the opposition, the other mistake Labour made was to adopt a paternalistic approach. They really did seem to misread the room and not take the time to bring people along.

            This is a mistake Labour has made time and again over recent decades. I'm still trying to understand why it is. Is it because they don't know how to best counter the misinformation etc. or are they afraid to say anything for fear of reprisal?

            I have sat in front of the TV on many occasions telling them in no uncertain terms what they should be saying but they just don't listen. 🙁

            • weka

              I agree that it seems to be embedded in Labour long term. But I also think the pandemic had a lot to do with it. We almost never talk about this, but the stress we all went through, I think most of us don't understand just how bad it was for people who had to front foot the crisis, including MPs, staffers, and public servants. There's a narrative about how easy politicians have it, which is frankly weird. Even at the best of times they are working outside the human norm. We expect them to be godlike while also tearing them down daily.

              They also dealt with White Island and the Chch Mosque massacres. The latter was a watershed moment for NZ in multiple ways.

              Three Waters was designed before the pandemic, but most of the communication with the public was done during the pandemic. I think we really underestimate the impact of that.

              • Anne

                I think you've got it. It's easy for most of us to move on from the pandemic, but for those responsible for the decision making and the constant public appearances – not to mention the associated stress of having to be available almost 24/7 – it must have taken a huge toll on them. In fact, I think it is still affecting them.

                What makes it worse is this new govt.'s constant lying and discrediting over what was internationally accepted as one of the most brilliant responses in the world. I despise the so-called Christian, Chris Luxon for his lying and deceit over the handling of the pandemic.

              • Robert Guyton

                I think the deepest driver for the opposition to 3Waters was fear of Nanaia Mahuta.

                Her stern look and moko kauae triggered dark fears in many pākehā.

                • weka

                  I agree with that. Complex set of drivers and there were legitimate concerns that had nothing to do with Mahuta or co-governance.

                  There were also legitimate concerns about co-governance. Why did anyone think that co-governance could be forced on a population that largely didn't understand what it was and what the benefits are?

                  • Robert Guyton

                    What do you mean by co-governance?

                    Nobody would have batted an eye if the two parties considering co-governance had been pākehā – imagine National, go-governing in the agricultural space with Federated Farmers – all good, mate!~ But co-governing with Māori – hell no!!

                    That's the issue, right there.

                    What "legitimate concerns" did you see, weka?

                    • weka

                      people in authority not being able to define what co-governance is 😉

                      how would co-governance work in different situations eg central government, local government?

                      what are the benefits for Pākehā of co-governance?

                      how does co-governance fit into democracy?

                      We had people running round hand wavy about the end of democracy. Co-governance should have been an opening to talk about what democracy is, what the different kinds are, and how it can be improved.

                      Instead we had the right's propaganda of 'the end of democracy' and the left pointing fingers saying 'racist!', a bunch of people in the middle trying to figure out what side they were on, and the real conversation never really happened.

                      My challenge to you now is to respond to my points, not just come back with more denial of the nuanced arguments.

                    • James Simpson

                      imagine National, go-governing in the agricultural space with Federated Farmers

                      Are you kidding me? You seriously think nobody would have batted an eye about Federated Farmers governing agriculture?

                      There would be protests on the street lead by the Green Party and me.

                    • weka []

                      Isn’t He Waka Eke Noa a form of co-governance, in this case the industrial farming sector having a very large influence on government climate policy?


                  • Robert Guyton

                    "My challenge to you now is to respond to my points, not just come back with more denial of the nuanced arguments."

                    These points?

                    "… how would co-governance work in different situations eg central government, local government?

                    In local government, it's already working and has been for some time. For example, Waituna Lagoon restoration in relation to mahingakai and/or the Regional Forum in collaboration with Environment Southland. There must be many other examples around the country; these are the ones I can refer to.

                    "…what are the benefits for Pākehā of co-governance?

                    What? Surely you jest? All pākehā institutions benefit from shared governance with manawhenua because those affected by governance decisions INCLUDE MANAWHENUA!!

                    "… how does co-governance fit into democracy?

                    Because it's democratic to listen to all voices and some voices have legal validity through arrangements such as … treaties?

                    My question to you, weka: what do you mean by, "more denial of the nuanced arguments"???

                    • weka

                      so this would be another case of you fundamentally not understanding my position or argument. For instance,

                      What? Surely you jest? All pākehā institutions benefit from shared governance with manawhenua because those affected by governance decisions INCLUDE MANAWHENUA!!

                      I think there are many, many benefits for Pākehā. Why are you talking to me as if I am a RW reactionary? Why did you think my questions here were against co-governance instead of understanding that the legitimate concerns revolve around lack of explanation and understanding. I can't think of anything I have read that focused on the benefits to Pākehā. Why is there a dearth of that?

                    • weka

                      In local government, it's already working and has been for some time. For example, Waituna Lagoon restoration in relation to mahingakai and/or the Regional Forum in collaboration with Environment Southland. There must be many other examples around the country; these are the ones I can refer to.

                      Right, but that doesn't tell the public how it works in practice.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      What "legitimate concerns"?

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Those involved with the Waituna project are the public.

                    • weka []

                      Those involved with the Waituna project are the public.

                      Great! However my point was about the larger body of the public that don’t understand, and object or are resistant to, 3 Waters because of the co-governance aspects and how they benefit Pākehā. Like I said, there’s a dearth of explanation of how co-governance already works and brings benefits to the community. The nuts and bolts. I’m somewhat familiar with Waituna, but I couldn’t tell anyone how co-governance works there.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      " However my point was about the larger body of the public that don’t understand, and object or are resistant to, 3 Waters because of the co-governance aspects and how they benefit Pākehā. "

                      The larger body of the public" don't give a tinkers. The only reason they are "resistant to.." is because they are being played. The play is: fear of the dark.

                    • weka []

                      ah, the blindness of the left. Stoopid, apathetic voting public, if only they weren’t so dumb they would come to their senses, think like us and vote left.

                      That kind of condescension is why the left is currently in opposition.

                    • Dolomedes III []

                      Well said weka. If the author of this article really doesn't understand public opposition to Three Waters, it's because he doesn't want to understand. There is definitely a case for centralized funding of water infrastructure. But the previous government tried to con the public with manipulative ads, and like many I was unimpressed by the idea of putting an unaccountable iwiocracy in charge.

                      [I am generally a live and let live sort of author but your passive aggressive refusal to actually adress the merits has pissed me off. You are in moderation. Make your arguments really good and I will let them through – MS]

                    • weka []

                      Well said weka. If the author of this article really doesn’t understand public opposition to Three Waters, it’s because he doesn’t want to understand. There is definitely a case for centralized funding of water infrastructure. But the previous government tried to con the public with manipulative ads, and like many I was unimpressed by the idea of putting an unaccountable iwiocracy in charge.

                      My comment had nothing to do with micky’s views, it was a direct response to a conversation Robert G and I are having.

                      I support co-governance, so perhaps you haven’t understood what I was saying.

                      But good to see you making your position on that and Labour’s 3 Waters plan clear.

                    • Muttonbird

                      It's true though. You don't consult the public on controversial issues because by definition you will get controversy. Just do it. The right does this whether the public like it or not, the difference is they do it very early and hard and then smile. Labour were only stupid to try bring the public with them. Too nice, too late.

                    • weka []

                      It’s true though. You don’t consult the public on controversial issues because by definition you will get controversy. Just do it. The right does this whether the public like it or not, the difference is they do it very early and hard and then smile. Labour were only stupid to try bring the public with them. Too nice, too late.

                      Here’s the problem from a left rather than liberal perspective. What you are suggesting is authoritarian (government knows best and should impose policy and legislation). The right like that because they are comfortable with authority. If they have to choose between left and right authority they will choose right (because of policy). Swing voters who like authority will likewise just vote how they did before, one way or the other.

                      Left and liberal voters may vote for it in a centre left government, but they will become more authoritarian and less liberal. That’s very bad news for the left. The centre left will drift rightwards, and the liberal left authoritarians will double down on their positions. If by some chance they actually gain and retain power, we know that left authoritarianism is not pretty.

                      Also, well before that kind of disaster, we already know what liberal NZ do in response to Labour imposing policy, that was the Lange government and NZ has never recovered.

                      As rob has been pointing out, the issue here is many people are still experiencing a loss of trust from the first years of the pandemic. Trust doesn’t get rebuilt by forcing people. The right can get away with force more easily because people expect that of them. The left have to rebuild trust because that’s our kaupapa.

                      It’s kind of alarming seeing how many liberals and lefties here are advocating authority (not just this conversation).

                    • Muttonbird

                      I see weka has Dolomedes' ear. What a surprise.

                    • Incognito []

                      Divisive comment 🙁

                    • weka []

                      I see weka has Dolomedes’ ear. What a surprise.

                      don’t be a dickhead all your life MB. Dolomedes appears to have as poor an understanding of my argument as you do.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      "ah, the blindness of the left. Stoopid, apathetic voting public, if only they weren’t so dumb they would come to their senses, think like us and vote left.

                      That kind of condescension is why the left is currently in opposition."

                      That kind of condescension was written by … you, weka and is way off the mark.

                      Do you not believe that racism/fear of the dark is being harnessed and used to influence the public's perceptions? I've no interest in trying to convince you that this is the case if you've not already worked it out for yourself.

                    • weka []

                      Do you not believe that racism/fear of the dark is being harnessed and used to influence the public’s perceptions? I’ve no interest in trying to convince you that this is the case if you’ve not already worked it out for yourself.

                      I already said I agree with you on this, in this conversation earlier,


                      I am also on record multiple times on TS as being in support of co-governance.

                      I am going to ask you again why you are speaking to me as if I am a right wing reactionary or in denial of the racism that exists in large amounts in this debate?

                    • roblogic

                      Labour tried to be democratic and inclusive with 3 Waters but their brand was tarnished with lockdowns and the public trust was undermined further by cynical political operatives sowing FUD.

                      If Labour had used typical Nat tactics of disinformation and urgency in order to ram through unpopular changes, I can just imagine the fury of the Herald and Newshub etc.

                      I think Labour played its hand as best it could but the deck was stacked

                      Dolomedes claims that mickeysavage “doesn’t understand public opposition” and then goes on to claim to be worried about “an unaccountable iwiocracy in charge”

                      Thus Dolo shows their own shallow grasp of the issues and susceptibility to the cynical lies of the Stop3W campaign

  7. Anne 7

    The biggest source of angst and the driver of the anti 3 waters campaign was the possibility that Māori would be given too many rights over water.


    And any attempt to try and explain why that is not true was met with accusations of "mad leftie bias" to which I responded with the accusation "you're racists" which is true. These people I'm ashamed to say are members of my extended family and they listen to Mike Hosking and co.

    Anyone done any research into MH's possible link to Atlas?

  8. Barfly 8

    I remember predicting this – we can also expect private financing of hospital builds …at a ruinous cost to us all this is the crap the RW pulled in England /sigh

    • bwaghorn 8.1

      This is what I find stunning about politicians of all types,
      Got a problem ?? Blindly follow you're ideology!!!!!

      How's about looking around the would ,finding the country that has the best outcomes for a given problem, follow their model , ffs its not hard.

      • joe90 8.1.1

        In a former working life it was known as following the district average – looking over the fence to see what the successful neighbours were doing.

      • KJT 8.1.2

        Such as following the successful parts of Scottish water as Labour was doing, instead of the disaster of privatisation in England which will be the coalition of chaos's ultimate aim.

        We don't have to look very far to see how dysfunctional NACT's "solutions" have been in the past.

      • Dolomedes III 8.1.3

        Yes please. Give us policy based on careful consideration of the evidence, rather than ideology. Unfortunately the NZ left seems to think the answer to all problems is more race and gender ideology, and the right thinks the answer is more neoliberalism (and cloning John Key).

  9. Skylark 9

    I find it bemusing that city dwellers focus on the infrastructure (3W, transport, power, medical etc) issues of where they live and forget about the minimal infrastructure situation in the smaller places they race off to holiday and recreate in.

    • Incognito 9.1

      Is Havelock North small enough for you?

      • Descendant Of Smith 9.1.1

        That's more of a white enclave from whence you go somewhere else to holiday.

        • Incognito

          Raglan or Luxon’s favourite holiday destination Te Puke?

          Small enough and allegedly forgotten by ‘city dwellers’ in the context of 3W, for example?

          Do you agree with Skylark’s pre-text?

          • Descendant Of Smith

            Yeah been a problem for a long time. It also means small towns have to build for peak holiday rather than normal use.

  10. Thinker 10

    From what's been said, the government will delegate the 'decisionmaking' to the local level.

    I'm guessing that's from understanding how volatile this will become – empowering local authorities to make decisions and then giving them a huge funding burden and standards to meet that makes those decisions massively difficult and potentially leading to 'white knight' solutions from PPPs that sound better than privatisation.

    In a better world, those councils would put some thought into green water solutions and investigate developer-funded outcomes to the problem. Yes, people still pay (e.g. part of the cost of buying a new home) but at least it stops water going the way power did when they privatised it. Just like developers pay for other infrastructure.

    This is a tremendous opportunity for the greens and others of the left to step up and start shouting that there is an alternative to privatisation.

    • roblogic 10.1

      Local body elections are dysfunctional and some real kooks get elected because nobody pays attention and voter turnout is abysmal.

      Plays into the hands of motivated self-interested groups like farmers – and when actual green policies are enacted then a National govt is tempted to chuck out democracy and appoint their mates (per Environment Canterbury).

      Again, the issue was control of water – and allowing irrigators to use up way more than their share, putting the security of the Chch water supply at risk

  11. Cricklewood 11

    I guess the rubber has hit the road, too many councils underinvested in core infrastructure prefering to push funding into more glamerous projects and keep rates artificially low and voters were quite happy to vote for it.

    Surely large rate rises to cover the costs of previous poor descisions are the consequences.

    Its time to pay the piper and if rates need to rise to actually properly cover the cost of running a town or city so be it.

    • Chess Player 11.1


    • bwaghorn 11.2

      Should take it out of the landed boomers pockets who've paid to low rates for years due to voting for piss poor councils more worried about getting elected as opposed to doing their job.

    • roblogic 11.3

      Double rates for landlords

      Start rating unimproved land

      Give councils the power to 'levy' capital gains

      • Muttonbird 11.3.1

        That sounds like an excuse to pass the cost onto tenants. Better to make the rates system even more progressive so that the very and moderately wealthy are paying much more for to the city they apparently enjoy living in.

        • roblogic

          If we treated our housing crisis as the public emergency it is — with tens of thousands affected and living in unacceptable conditions — then I would expect the government to use a bit of authoritarian power to implement things like

          • rent controls
          • rationing (ie. allocating housing based on need)
          • tenant's rights
          • nationalising housing stock
          • mandates on construction industry to plan enough housing for population growth
          • huge disincentives on housing deemed to be luxury or excessive
          • capital controls – no more crazy shit like Grant's Covid QE causing prices to spike

          Either it's a housing crisis (needing drastic measures to fix), or it isn't. But since it's only the poor and working class mainly affected, while there are guys like Luxon making millions for nothing, the malinvestment will continue.

    • Muttonbird 11.4

      It shouldn't one or the other, it should be both. What you call glamorous projects are facilities to make a city liveable just like water services.

      The glamorous projects are things like alternative transport and the development of people friendly areas. These projects are really important for low income, service working people whose housing is poor quality or small apartment living. They and their young families need open spaces and alternative means of getting to work. Otherwise you're allowing slums and increased crime to develop.

      Of course none of this matters to the wealthy of Karori who have their own green spaces and generous floor space. The wealthy of Karori can't stomach rates pushing much above 10% of their superannuation in order to both future proof the city and deliver water.

  12. Mike the Lefty 12

    The sad reality is that a whole heap of stupid Kiwis would rather have water sold off to white foreign suits than have those stirring Maoris have a say over what happens to it.

    That is, of course, until the water meters start going in and the bills start appearing and then Labour's Affordable waters will look so much more appealing.

    But too late you dicks!

    You wanted the NATZ in, and dat's what ya get!

    • Graeme 12.1

      Think it's more the whole heap of stupid kiwis wanted to have water in the hands of elderly white councillors who weren't going to put the rates up, rather than some faceless quasi government / regional organisations who could charge what was required to run a safe and reliable water service.

      The same people will be apoplectic when they see a water model that's essentially 3 Waters, but essentially privately controlled / owned, and that's probably overseas capital. That's not what the Citizens and Ratepayers lot, who are the base of the National Party, voted National for.

      Could be some interesting times coming up for the CoC

      • Mike the Lefty 12.1.1

        I always thought that Labour did incredibly badly selling the Affordable waters programme to the public. They should have published a balance sheet showing the difference in what people could be paying between their scheme and the NATZ alternative and then the political right would have looked a lot weaker when their b..s was apparent.

        • Graeme

          Couldn't agree more. The public facing side of the 3 Waters / Affordable Water reform was, to the public an impenetrable shambles. Because the thing was a managerial wet dream all the jargon came through and no one understood what was going on. Then the opposing groups seized on that and led the discourse.

          Clear language from the start would have helped. 3 Waters, heck the only people who understand what that describes are senior manager in the industry, and then I wonder.

          The public just saw it as something they didn't understand, couldn't see the need for, and just didn't trust.

          It was also a very bold reform of Local Government, taking 1/3 of their work and giving it to organisations sitting between local and central government. A big move that may not have delivered to expectation.

          National will struggle just as much to put something together other than continue with the status quo, or maybe some larger councils amalgamate their services with neighbours where the cashflow will be towards the larger party. Don't see much happening if a large district or city has to put cash into a smaller basket case. (have a look at how lines company reform panned out)

          We'll probably end up bumbling along for this Government with something starting to gel was they run out of steam, to be enacted by the next government cycle.

  13. Descendant Of Smith 13

    The trouble is Labour started this privatisation caper, the selling off of income producing assets and is still wedded to it in reality. They had 9 years in power to look at councils and how their incomes are derived in order to pay for things.

    The previous sell-offs of income producing assets for short term capital gain eventually results in rate payers and debt being last men standing. And now we are seeing further sell-offs.

    Without increasing income streams there is little hope.

    Two easy suggestions are to divert at least 50% of local GST to councils and to allow councils who have kept council housing to access acommodation supplement to then be able to lift rents as well as to pay them compensatory payments to enable housing upgrades for the years both governments denied them this access being the only non-owner housing group to be denied state subsidy.

    This neo-liberal accounting nonsense of valuing everything at a high capital value and then saying we'd get a better return if it was used for this has to stop as well. Community assets should be value exempt and simply be part of the commons.

    • Graeme 13.1

      Councillors don't spend money on water infrastructure because there's less votes in it compared to spending on what people can see, like sports fields and civic ammenities.

      Throwing more money at Councils through GST or other means just perpetuates this dynamic.

      Even mandating where the money is spent doesn't help because project scope is stretched to bring in lots of above ground work that voters can see, often most of the project cost.

      3 Waters, as originally proposed by Labour, and with the support and leadership of the water industry, was all about removing elected councillors from the planning and funding of water infrastructure.

  14. Hunter Thompson II 14

    The rural sector (dairy industry in particular) has already made huge steps towards privatising the nation's water.

    Some of them just steal it:

    Water theft will become a big issue as climate change rolls on. But the culprits are big players in our much vaunted economy, so they have a fair bit of political clout.

  15. newsense 15

    Where are our satirists?

    No longer taking the piss, drinking it. With National water.

  16. Ad 16

    We will just have 9 more Watercare's, legislated for full balance sheet separation, but with more and more users paying for what they use. Such as dairy farmers.

    In the end we will have 10 water entities, just as Labour proposed (Though it will take a couple more terms to get there and involve more gnashing of teeth from the councils who are of course all stacked with Nats). Sure it will get rough but it has been rough and should be.

    Will only take another drought to accelerate this along.

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    Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones is streamlining high-level oceans management while maintaining a focus on supporting the sector’s role in the export-led recovery of the economy. “I am working to realise the untapped potential of our fishing and aquaculture sector. To achieve that we need to be smarter with ...
    1 week ago
  • Patterson promoting NZ’s wool sector at International Congress
    Associate Agriculture Minister Mark Patterson is speaking at the International Wool Textile Organisation Congress in Adelaide, promoting New Zealand wool, and outlining the coalition Government’s support for the revitalisation the sector.    "New Zealand’s wool exports reached $400 million in the year to 30 June 2023, and the coalition Government ...
    1 week ago
  • Removing red tape to help early learners thrive
    The Government is making legislative changes to make it easier for new early learning services to be established, and for existing services to operate, Associate Education Minister David Seymour says. The changes involve repealing the network approval provisions that apply when someone wants to establish a new early learning service, ...
    1 week ago
  • RMA changes to cut coal mining consent red tape
    Changes to the Resource Management Act will align consenting for coal mining to other forms of mining to reduce barriers that are holding back economic development, Resources Minister Shane Jones says. “The inconsistent treatment of coal mining compared with other extractive activities is burdensome red tape that fails to acknowledge ...
    1 week ago
  • McClay reaffirms strong NZ-China trade relationship
    Trade, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Todd McClay has concluded productive discussions with ministerial counterparts in Beijing today, in support of the New Zealand-China trade and economic relationship. “My meeting with Commerce Minister Wang Wentao reaffirmed the complementary nature of the bilateral trade relationship, with our Free Trade Agreement at its ...
    1 week ago
  • Prime Minister Luxon acknowledges legacy of Singapore Prime Minister Lee
    Prime Minister Christopher Luxon today paid tribute to Singapore’s outgoing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.   Meeting in Singapore today immediately before Prime Minister Lee announced he was stepping down, Prime Minister Luxon warmly acknowledged his counterpart’s almost twenty years as leader, and the enduring legacy he has left for Singapore and South East ...
    1 week ago

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