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Councillor: Long-term plans ruined by Three Waters reform

PHOTO/FILE

Government accused of ‘pre-determined’ reforms

“Our long-term plans are now toilet paper.”

Masterton councillor Tina Nixon didn’t mince her words when she presented her personal submission on the Water Services Entities Bill this week.

Nixon, who made headlines last year when she called the Government “a deceitful, lying pack of bastards” over Three Waters Reform, said there was “still deceit today”.

She told the Government’s Finance and Expenditure Committee that council shareholdings in the new water services entities were a “sham”, as was the co-governance model.

She said the council shares had “no rights and no benefits”.

“It’s nothing more than PR spin to try to convince what the Government thinks is a gullible public that they aren’t going to lose control of their assets which is what in fact is going to happen.”

She said the co-governance model was also a “sham” because it would result in reduced iwi representation.

At the same time, small councils would face the same loss of voice, she said.

Although she was supportive of water reform, she said this was not the model that should be followed.

Instead, she favoured the proposal put forward by Communities 4 Local Democracy.

This proposal retains council-community ownership of water assets, introduces a regulatory framework, and introduces financial assistance to help deprived communities to meet minimum health and environmental standards.

The proposal also suggests a “backstop” provision that would allow for future Crown intervention if acceptable progress was not being made to meet regulatory requirements.

Nixon said Three Waters Reform would make it difficult for councils to plan ahead and essentially nullified long-term plans [LTP].

“Removing three waters from our LTPs means our LTPs are now toilet paper,” she said.

“We’re not giving any surety to the community around what council is planning to do, simply because the three waters make up a large part of it.

“We keep getting told to treat our planning as business as usual and all will be fine. The reality is, it’s not, and that’s deceitful.”

Other elected members who made personal submissions on the Water Services Entities Bill were: Gary Caffell and David Holmes [Masterton], and Alistair Plimmer and Claire Bleakley [South Wairarapa].

Caffell said the Government had failed to listen or debate the reforms “because they were pre-determined from the start, meaning our democratic rights have largely been taken away from us”.

“How can councils debate the reforms in a proper manner and with public input when they are being put together in such a piecemeal fashion?

“There are just so many unanswered questions.

“It would have been common sense for the reforms to be fully formulated before councils were asked to comment and invite public submissions. To take such a sledgehammer approach is very poor governance.” – 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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