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Calls for government to delay ‘bad legislation’

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen presenting to the Government’s Finance and Expenditure Committee. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] has asked the government to delay the Water Services Entities Bill “until better consultation is undertaken”.

Mayor Alex Beijen presented the councillors’ submission to the Government’s Finance and Expenditure Committee this week and came out swinging about the process.

“I’m here by myself,” he said. “My staff are busy trying to respond to a request for information from the Department of Internal Affairs [DIA] regarding Three Waters.”

He said councils were required to consult on any significant decision under the Local Government Act, “yet central government have not done this themselves”.

“Indeed, I will state that no consultation has occurred, merely engagement,” Beijen said.

He compared the Three Waters Reform engagement with being asked about the colour and accessories of an already designed car, “not whether we need a car or a ute”.

“You need to go back and consult with councils and the public before voting on this bill.”

He said he had examined many models for water infrastructure reform, “and Scottish Water continues to appear to be the worst example to follow”.

“Tasmania Water, where the Government bought a shareholding in an aggregated water entity owned by councils and co-funds investment, stands out as a logical option.

“But it has been ignored.”

He also said there was a “fundamental problem” with presenting this first bill to Parliament because it laid the path for additional legislation.

“How can we submit on this legislation when the details of subsequent follow-on legislation have yet to be discussed, engaged on, or clarified?”

He said ownership, asset clarification, economic regulation, the cost to public based on accurate information, and billing needed to be clarified before the bill went any further ahead.

Regarding SWDC’s water infrastructure, Beijen said central government limited the borrowing ability of councils, “thus creating an impossible situation to comply with the new standards for water”.

“Before you see council as the culprit, consider these points … a compliant system that overnight becomes non-compliant due to legislation is not a failure to invest … You won’t let us invest what we need to.”

Beijen finished the presentation by concluding that “rushed legislation is bad legislation”.

“I have repeatedly heard the phrase: “we are building this plane while flying it”, from the DIA, the Minister, and Taumata Arowai.

“So we call on you to delay this bill until better consultation is undertaken and the surety of the appropriateness of this Bill is determined.” – NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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