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RNZ, Three Waters and partisan commentary

Written By: - Date published: 11:43 am, October 11th, 2022 - 55 comments
Categories: Environment, labour, Media, spin, taxpayers union, uncategorized - Tags:

I am a regular listener of Radio New Zealand’s Political Commentators’ show although recently I have wondered why.  The commentors from the right are a mixed bag.  Ben Thomas schmoozes but Bridgit Morton grates.  She has an ability to use extreme language in the mold of occasional Standard reader Matthew Hooton.  National can do no wrong and Labour can do no right.

She is clearly deeply partisan which of itself should not preclude her involvement.  But allowing clearly compromised opinions in a segment involving political discussion appears to me to be wrong.  In yesterday’s episode Morton said this:

I think that without any doubt three waters is a toxic thing for this Government and I take the opportunity to declare that we represent a group currently taking the three waters to court.”

She is right about her involvement.  She works for Franks Ogilvie who represents the Water User’s Group which is currently taking the Government to Court seeking judicial review of aspects of the Three Waters rollout.

Who is the Water User’s Group?  It is an incorporated society having its registered office at Franks Ogilvie.  The initial members names I do not recognise apart from John Bishop who I presume is Chris Bishop’s father.  The organisation is closely associated with the Tax Payers Union and they are clearly both on a mission to thwart Three Waters.  The phrase “astrosurfer” springs to mind.

The litigation is seeking the Court to make a series of declarations that Nanaia Mahuta’s recommendations to Cabinet were based on errors of law.  It is focusing on Maori rights to water and in particular opposes the Minister’s assertions that a pan-Maori interest in water exists.

Clearly the concept of co governance is being attacked.  Under the Water Services Entites Bill Regional Representatives Groups will be established and will have various powers including the appointment of directors, the setting of the entity’s strategic direction and performance expectations and reviewing the performance of the entity.  The board members will have day to day running of the entity.

The rhetoric coming from Franks Ogilvie about the bill is rather extreme.  There is this opinion which claims that the Government’s safeguards to stop privatisation are false misleading and deceptive.  They say this because shares are being issued and because Councils will own shares rather than retain ownership of the actual water assets currently owned.  This of course ignores the numerous protections in the bill and the fact that Councils retain effective control of the entity through their shares.  The bottom line is that the owners of shares will have extensive power and effective control over the entity.  And the bill does not address issues such as who owns Waitakere’s Parkland from which Watercare sources a fair chunk of its water.  My hunch is that this will remain in Auckland Council’s ownership and Frank Ogilvie’s hand wringing will be irrelevant.

The background is important because Radio New Zealand allows one of the persons involved in the litigation free and regular reign to come onto the station and in a show involving political commentary say the most outlandish things. And there is a big fundraising drive happening to fund the litigation.

Of course partisan commentary is important.  But there should be a limit.  Merely declaring an interest should not be enough.

55 comments on “RNZ, Three Waters and partisan commentary ”

  1. tc 1

    Relax mickey expert broadcaster Willie Jackson's onto it.

  2. mpledger 2

    How does Franks Ogilvie get to supply so many commentators to RNZ? That law firm is surely getting its clients' viewpoints huge amounts of airtime and in their own framing – if not directly, then indirectly. The value of that must be hundreds of thousands of dollars to them and they get paid for doing it. On to a winner there.

  3. tsmithfield 3

    People have good reason to be concerned about co-governance. An over 90% vote in favour of a constitutional change in Playcentres was over-ruled by two out of six roopu, which seems absolutely undemocratic.

    If this is how co-governance is going to work, I don't want a bar of it as it looks like the vast majority can be over-ruled by a very small minority.

    • James Simpson 3.1

      And ACT will make this an election issue.

      The government needs to clearly communicate to the masses about how co-governance works in practice and dampen down some of the fears.

      Otherwise ACT will run with this and make it an issue when there is no issue.

    • Mike the Lefty 3.2

      But don't you think there is a vast difference between a how a playcentre association is governed and how natural water resources, stormwater and wastewater are managed?

      Compare apples with apples.

      Scare tactics are what National and ACT thrive upon.

      It doesn't mean we have to accept their version.

  4. logie97 4

    Franks of Franks Ogilvie.

    Ex (ambitious) ACT MP?

    Franks entered Parliament in the 1999 election, having been ranked in third place on the party list for the ACT Party, and coming fourth in Rongotai electorate. This high ranking (above several sitting MPs) was indicative of ACT's high hopes for Franks at the time – as a prominent lawyer, he was generally regarded as a significant asset for the party. In 2002 he stood in Wellington Central which had been won by ACT's Richard Prebble in 1996. During his six years in Parliament he was ACT spokesman for Justice, Corrections, the Police and Commerce. He added Maori Affairs and Sport in the last three years.

    When Prebble announced his retirement from politics in early 2004, Franks was one of the four candidates who sought to take his place as leader of ACT. Franks ran on a platform of restoring the party's core message. Despite receiving the endorsement of party founder Roger Douglas, he was eventually defeated by Rodney Hide. After Hide became leader of the ACT party on 13 June, Franks remained the party's spokesperson for justice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Franks

    He has regular appearances on RNZ's The Panel.

    I think we know where he is coming from.

    • Tricledrown 4.1

      Jordan Williams was working in Franks legal practice before getting into Dirty politics and the the Taxpayers union no surprises their.The BBC and Radio NZ have commentry from so called independent think tanks such as the the NZ institute all funded by big oil and billionaires.no mention of their political affiliations.

    • Ghostwhowalksnz 4.2

      He later tried to get on the National party list.

      Its strange as previously he was a very highly paid tax lawyer and it would seem the lowly paid MP job was his dream job.

      I think it was him who said , even as a tax lawyer you are just a hired apparatchik while even a minor MP has many fawning over you ( or words to that effect)

      So he ditched the tax law and reinvented himself as public policy lawyer.

      The Taxpayers Onion and many other ACT ' agitprop' groups have been spawned out of the Frank Ogilvy law offices.

  5. Corey Humm 5

    The funny thing about three waters is this government has sold it wrong from the start, it should have been sold as patriotic nationalization, unashamedly protectionist of water to protect NZ's water quality, upgrade our infrastructure and protect water from privatization and ban exportation to China. It would have been enormously popular.

    Instead like everything the left does now from drug reforms, to health reforms to foster care reforms it's been debated in and promoted in a painfully academic way as a form social justice and racial equity that elicits internal groans from the public.

    There's no guarantee water privatization or exportation is going to be banned or who profits from it. Like most of labours reforms this term the comms have been boring, long winded and confusing and no answer answers.

    Its been painful to watch a policy that could so easily be extremely popular with middle NZ be argued from a social justice viewpoint.

    I remember how popular Jacindas first policy announcement as leader of the opposition was, which was putting a levy on water bottling, it was sold as populist left wing nationalism, it's a shame the government didn't pass that as soon as they formed a majority.

    It's really a tragedy that this government has wasted an entire term of government and ALL of it's political capital on making policies that could be popular as unpopular as they can possibly be and communicating them via a social justice lense when with a few tweaks these polices could be hugely popular left wing populist reforms.

    The speed these reforms are moving at too, horrendously slow, you want reforms to be quick and fast so the next govt can't reform them so easily, at this pace the reforms will barely be in place by a pretty damn likely change of government next year and will easily be reversed, so this government will have spent an enormous political capital and half is incumbency on policies that never saw any benefits because they were immediately overturned.

    Wtf will this govts legacy be outside of COVID if it's voted out next year. Nothing historic, nothing future generations can point to and go well the sixth labour govts signature achievement was: xyz… It'll be remembered for getting a sole majority, COVID, being the first govt to not win the popular vote in its first term and not much else. And some mild fair pay ahreements. Which is a shame… We had historically high electoral support, record breaking political capital a leader who was earth shatteringly popular and even a year ago was gonna bolt into a third term, but we pissed it away on social justice that was horribly communicated by the pm and her cabinet and having no real plan for a second term beyond being as beige as possible to achieve it. We couldn't even get basic drug reforms cos we might have won 63 seats instead of 65. Meanwhile the democrats, even Biden are all in on it. The USA left is running circles around Arderns labour. Crazy.

    I hope we get a third term but we've had no plan for a second term, what on earth would we do for third three year term when we're this directionless, tired in the middle of term two. How on earth we're going to campaign as a party of transformation next year (or ever again) after winning this sole majority and doing nothing significant ground level while people can't find houses or afford to eat and while we're led by a tired prime minister who only five years into the job is polling at 30% and can't inspire herself let alone the public anymore.

    But hey at least upper middle class libs on Twitter will be happy the govt blew it's entire legacy and political capital on arguing on mostly neoliberal concepts of social justice , neoliberal girl boss feminism, trickle down iwi co-goverance programs, knocking down affordable rentals and state houses and giving property developers huge contracts if they build a few boxes for poor people instead of rallying the country together by promoting patriotic left wing populist water reforms that make "NZ stronger", state run building programs, breaking up the supermarket duopoly and economic justice.

  6. John J Harrison 6

    This is simply delicious.

    The Maori Caucus is taking the hapless Ardern regime over a very high cliff.

    This issue is tearing our once united country apart together with the multitude of other separatist racial policies being driven in particular by Jackson and Mahuta.

    Going by the weekend’s election results Ardern is nothing more than a lame duck waddling toward an historic election loss – just as her fellow MP East suffered on Saturday- due to her public support.

    Both National and ACT should hold mandatory prayer meetings every day praying for Ardern to lead her team of sycophants into the 2023 election.

    If that transpires Labour will end up with a mere 15 – 20 MP’s on the opposition benches – for a decade.

    The worst, most divisive regime in our history.

    • logie97 6.1

      Well informed comment Mr Harrison.

      You were obviously too young to experience the Holland and Muldoon governments when it comes to dividing a country. Please give examples of the current administration's divisiveness. Just keep repeating the tired old meme and you might begin to believe your own crap.

      • gsays 6.1.1

        Maybe you are being rhetorical when you ask”Please give examples of the current administration's divisiveness.”

        The obvious example is the mandates which has divided families, destroyed businesses and put under-resourced workforces into crisis.

        • Ghostwhowalksnz

          Dont mention the thousands of lives saved ! Its still is an infectious disease which has killed millions around the world

          NZ and a few others are the only countries which had a net reduction in the total deaths that have occurred in last 30 months ( over that which has occured in other recent 30 month periods)

          • mauī

            The weaker Omicron strain that NZ got hit with probably saved more lives than vaccine mandates can take credit for. Omicron still managed to rip through NZ with our full range of health controls in place.

            We're also in rapid mortality catchup mode, this is looking like our worst winter death rate on record. https://www.1news.co.nz/2022/07/05/more-kiwis-dying-than-ever-before-after-mortality-rates-fell/

            And with the physical and mental stress many people have undergone for the last 2 years, kiwis general health must be in a shocking state. Please have some perspective before stating we've done the best in the world.

            • Anne

              'Please have some perspective before stating we've done the best in the world."

              Do you have reading and cognitive disorders?

        • Adrian

          Bullshit to destroyed businesses and under-resourced workforces which I presume means health and teaching, the numbers who were given the arse were very very small, in the small single figures and the reason was that they did not understand their Duty of Care to the vulnerable in their care.

          • gsays

            I know of 2 hospo businesses that are no more directly because of the mandates, so you can pop yr bullshit in the compost.

            Yr reckons does not negate the divisions that are a result of this government.

            • Macro


            • Anne

              Answer this question gsays.

              Why do you consistently ignore the fact that the primary objective of the government during the pandemic was to "save lives"?

              They saved thousands of them in that first 12 to 18 months in particular. NZ is regarded overseas as having had one of the best responses. Not only did our Govt. achieve their goal with a miniscule death rate [per capita] compared to other countries, but NZ came out the other end in far better shape than most.

              You think it better those thousands were dead eh? One of them might have been you.

              Of course there is fallout. There always is.

              Just like the fallout after a world war, it takes time to get commercial operations back to normal. This government has been very generous to the casualties caused by the pandemic – something you and other opponents choose to ignore in your obsessive attitude towards the unavoidable mandates.

              • gsays

                Again, none of what you say negates the fact that division is a price paid for the result.
                Your sentence about fallout is what I’m talking about.
                As to having best response, we are a remote island nation that used to have a very high trust in authority.

                • Anne

                  … we are a remote island nation that used to have a very high trust in authority.

                  Oh yes, I agree with you there gsays. But in my mind 'the authorities' doesn't include the government. They make the laws and change them from time to time, but it is the public entities who put them into practice. I lost faith in most of them a long time ago.

            • Graeme

              Mandates or punters not wanting to go out because they might catch the plague.

              I know of a lot of businesses that are no more because of the pandemic affecting customer's spending and social behaviour. In hospo I've watched two business in the same market, one that's quite tightly packed and pre covid went off, now dead and gone, another with lots of outside space and flexible management that's thriving.

              Also know of some that gave it away because customers had become so angry and abusive it wasn't worth their mental health to continue. That started long before vaccine mandates came in.

              • joe90

                After two shitty wedding seasons my brother's catering business was all but dead in the water. Today he's selling his business as requiring all front-facing staff to be vaccinated, undergo rapid tests prior to their shifts and wear N95 masks at functions.

                Business is booming and he's booked right through until Easter next year.

            • newsense

              I also know of seven hospo businesses that failed cos more than half of them do in the first couple of years. Without any spittle flecked blame game. Quite often to do with making sure regulars pay for all the booze they’re drinking!

        • newsense

          Nah- zero COVID kept the country pumping, the economy challenged those all over the world.

          Obviously didn’t have family die since omicron for the sake of the economy then? No one you were ready to sacrifice?

          But I get it- having to get a vaccination to do something was an important blahblahblah and you used to get hit and punished for speaking your own language at school. Oh you didn’t mean that divisiveness? That’s not considered divisive where you are?

          Should be out protesting drivers licenses and safety belts. Unless your just a hypocrite?

        • logie97

          … before you try to rewrite history, and an understanding of division (in this case splitting the country down the middle), at the time of the implementation of the mandates, over 90 % of the nation appeared to be supportive, including for the most part the full house of representatives. We would appear now to be in a better place to move on (notwithstanding that further mutations of the virus appear to be increasing.)

          With the benefit of hindsight things could have been managed better. But the virus appears to have been well managed in New Zealand. And it's reassuring to know that when you're in a gathering, there is a 95% chance that you're standing next to someone who has been vaccinated.

          • gsays

            While you accuse me of rewriting history, you start redefining division. A group can be divided by any number, it doesn't have to be in two.

            "With the benefit of hindsight things could have been managed better." True, but the point I am making is that divisions have occurred because of the state's actions. This is undeniable.

            " And it's reassuring to know that when you're in a gathering, there is a 95% chance that you're standing next to someone who has been vaccinated." This is where we part ways and a big fault with all the eggs in the pFizer basket. The false confidence in the medication is naive and unwise.

            • logie97

              with due respect, a divided nation is usually defined as split in two. (not small factions)

              1970s/80s- the pro/anti nuclear.

              1970s/1981 – anti-apartheid NZRFU

              – 1951 water front dispute.

              As for the false confidence – I have not been down the rabbit holes of the conspiracy crowd and sought my information from such dark places. I do know however that is reassuring that the majority of people I encounter are at one when it comes to behaving as responsibly as they can regarding the virus.

      • X Socialist 6.1.2

        I think the dude was once a Napier City councillor. So he may have a clue or two. Muldoon was an extreme socialist in Tory drag. His wage and price freeze would have had comrades around the world reaching an orgasm. I agree with most of what Harrison says – except I can't see Jacinda continuing to lead a political party that's poised to experience the biggest electoral defeat in NZ's history. I'm now a believer in the conspiracy that has Jacinda joining the UN. There's no way a lauded world figure such as she, who speaks at the UN, is going to hang around leading a small bunch of losers, in a small country, after the next election.

    • Peter 6.2

      The worst, most divisive regime in our history? Certainly. The coronavirus saga the most obvious example.

      They saw us as being divided into two groups and favoured one side being minuscule.

      Two groups – the living and the dead. Their reward and our reward for that?

      Well the groups ended up dividing themselves into sub-groups. The government didn't do that.

      The 'living' side was made up of the grateful, the ho-hum, and the ungrateful. The ungrateful of course had its own sub-groups. One was the fuckwits who had no idea but were self-proclaimed experts who expected the initial division into two two groups but didn't care about the size of the groups.

    • PsyclingLeft.Always 6.3

      This issue is tearing our once united country apart together with the multitude of other separatist racial policies being driven in particular by Jackson and Mahuta.

      The worst, most divisive regime in our history.

      Lol. You mean in YOUR mind's version of history. Which seems to be of a particular mindset.

  7. Incognito 7

    I think you meant Brigitte Morten and astroturfing.

    On a different note, why don’t they work pro bono?

  8. gsays 8

    I can’t help but feel there is a slight contradiction at play here.

    Partisan commentary is just that, from a certain point of view and out in the open. Yet, last week, folk were queuing up to dismiss, diminish and deny concerns around Fafoi becoming a lobbyist while the ink was still wet on his farewell card.

    We do not get to be privy as to who he represents, what inducements are on offer nor the remuneration while he helps the affluent further their interests.

    • Ghostwhowalksnz 8.1

      Heard of Bill English and Company Ltd, yes his consultant business

      Then there is Joyce Advisory Ltd , the consultant arm of Steven Joyce

      Its only bad when labour does it ?

      • gsays 8.1.1

        I haven’t heard of Blinglishes lobbying outfit and I would say the same about his as I do about Fafoi’s.

        So it is bad no matter who does it.

      • James Simpson 8.1.2

        Its bad whoever does it Ghost.

        Are you saying there is nothing wrong with it?

  9. Ad 9

    Matthew Hooten is still a regular partisan commentator on TV and elsewhere.

    If he gets Chief of Staff to Mayor Brown, both National and Labour will simply ignore Brown.

    Hooten shanked his own. They don't forget.

  10. Mat Simpson 10

    " National can do no wrong and Labour can do no right "

    Well duh… I think you live under a rock and then come out every now and again and say the bleeding obvious and then you go back underneath your rock.

    Under Paul Thompson appointed by the Nasty Natz to ensure RNZ was bought into the tent and pushed National radio from a non biased professional broadcaster to what you listen to now. Are you really surprised.

    I watched and listened to it deteriorate. It has become just as Joyce intended National friendly where political comment and analysis is skewed to the right and you only have to hear the usual suspects like Dann , Espiner and others.

    They criticize LINO but economically they follow the same neo liberal policies as the Nasty Natz. They have to have an enemy to oppose in order to push their policies and control the narrative.

    My only hope is that the merger will create an independent media environment for all those kiwis whose views aren't reflected fairly and that aren't paid up members of the National party.

  11. Kat 11

    Kathryn Ryan seems to waffle up to Brigette Morten on nine to noon, no matter what the topic. Thats why it is so wonderful hearing Kim Hill on Morning Retort getting to the nitty gritty in quick time……… Luxon is like a possum in the headlights…..

  12. Lettuce 12

    If you put Luxon in a wig and applied some lipstick, you'd end up with Bridgit Morton.

  13. newsense 13

    While I value the news collection, particularly the interviewing of people directly involved in stories, at RNZ, outside of James Nokise, their political commentators (of late) always feel like they represent more than they are letting on. I can’t unravel where all the interests lie with the lobbyists, P.R. types and so on. It’s always a bit too complicated, connected and clever. They’re often ex-chief of staff/campaign head types and there’s usually some private firm loyalty there too.

    It’s not Helen Kelly or Robert Reid and the Talleys or anything so up front and simple as capital v worker’s health and safety.

    Of course this is no slight on Mike Williams! That was clearly a previous iteration.

    • Anne 13.1

      Mike Williams would have to be the most astute commentator of our time. His knowledge and experiences is unmatched. He is also very fair and does not indulge in the excessive claims that we see in the likes of Hosking, HdPA, Soper and others.

  14. Peter 14

    To counter the partisan commentary I want a simple, bullet-point leaflet in my letter box which outlines the guts of what Three Waters will mean.

    Our newly elected (by miles) mayor some months ago was spouting crap about Three Waters. He was a mayoral candidate, he was wearing a tie and he was speaking to conservative, rural, Groundswell people so what he said was gospel.

    All of those people need the story told in uncomplicated, specific form addressing the critical questions.

    People at a local meeting were pissed off that "the Government is stealing what we've bought and paid for with our rates." In their heads that is the notion. I'm picking the level of emotion and ignorance is the same up and down the country.

    As much as the new mayor surfed in on his anti-Three Waters stance, the Labour MP, a good electorate MP, will be washed away by the same waves.

    • logie97 14.1

      I agree. For all his warts, Muldoon communicated with Joe Public in plain language.

      Three Waters needs to be explained clearly, its rationale, and how it affects us individually (if at all).

      Unfortunately the overworked-and-hard-done-by Groundswell, in their polluting massive farm machinery that they intend blockading the highways with, will garner more support.

  15. Craig H 15

    I listen to the 9-noon politics slot every week. I'm a Labour Party member but don't have a problem with the partisans here as it's partisans for both sides nearly every week – that's basically the premise.

  16. the opposition to 3 waters is all flim flam. it has to be done and who gets the contracts is th big issue hiding under all the rest. nationals just pissed off it isn't them. su k it up.

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