Although the topic has had a turbulent and confused couple of weeks, it seems that National want to privatise Auckland’s water supply.
Govt contradicts itself on water privatisation
Press Release: Green Party 29 October 2009
Statements from the Government on the issue of water privatisation are confusing and contradictory and give no assurance to the public that private interests won’t soon be profiting from the provision of water, the Green Party said today. Green Party Co-leader and Russel Norman questioned Bill English in the House on the glaring contradiction between his assurance in May that ‘water assets will not be privatised’ as a result of local government restructuring, and Rodney Hide’s announcement yesterday that water infrastructure will be opened up to private ownership.
‘Rodney Hide’s announcement yesterday will allow private sector interests to build, own, and operate water infrastructure for 35 years at a time. That’s longer than the rest of Rodney’s lifetime. If that’s not privatisation, what is?’ Dr Norman said. …
‘This change is similar to reforms that preceded massive water privatisation under the Thatcher government in the United Kingdom 20 years ago. Those reforms are widely acknowledged to have been an abject failure. ‘They resulted in homes having water cut off, people being poisoned by the water supply, and water companies being prosecuted hundreds of times for polluting the water supply.
Contradictory water privatisation decisions
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party 9 November 2009
John Key must explain whether the Cabinet stands by its decision to allow the new Auckland Council to privatise the city’s water assets, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford. ‘On October19 Cabinet agreed to allow Auckland City Council to privatise its water assets and then a week later refused to support a law change enabling this to occur nationwide. ‘Not only does the Prime Minister need to clear up this confusion, but he needs to explain why his Cabinet decided to set Watercare up for privatisation in the face of opposition from key agencies such as the Ministry of Health, and opinion polls that show 85 per cent of Aucklanders oppose privatisation,’ says Phil Twyford.
Brian Rudman applauds the voting down of Hide’s more extreme privatisation proposals, but seems to miss the significance of the extension of the time limit on council water contracts from the present maximum of 15 years to 35 years. Phil Twyford reckons that privatised for 35 years is pretty well privatised, and I have to agree. This all appears to be part of a more general move towards privatising local assets: “The National-ACT Government has decided to repeal the requirement on councils to consult the public before they privatise assets or contract out services, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford”. These issues have been picked up by both TVNZ and TV3 (or as ever see No Right Turn).
Water is a fundamental requirement of life and a basic human right. It should not be used to make a profit, and thus inevitably restricted to those who can least afford it (anyone remember this?). In Latin America the people are very much aware of the dangers of the privatisation agenda, there have been protests and actions on a scale described as a “water war“. My guess is that we New Zealanders are just going to shrug and go quietly. Didn’t Key look great on Letterman!