Media release - For Immediate release
Worrying implication for property rights as Gov't forces through 3 Waters reform
Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori says Government plans to force through water reforms virtually unchanged is a worrying attack on property rights and community voice.
The changes embed an unusual public shareholding model, where shareholders would have no rights other than the ability to decide whether or not to privatise services.
They also propose another level of complexity in governance, taking most councils even further away from a position of influence.
“One of the major concerns that I hold,” says Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith, “is that the small size of Westland’s population means that we will only get one share in this enterprise, but our assets cover a much larger area than some Councils who have a greater population. This means that we will potentially hand over more assets but will have a smaller shareholding. I can’t see how the government could have found a less fair solution for our communities if they had tried.”
“If the government had really been on board with listening to the stakeholders I don’t think we would have gotten to this point. The plan is virtually unchanged and has been forced on us, despite assurances that it was going to be a voluntary process. They also don’t seem to be recognising the good work that is happening to work with local iwi and develop our own co-governance solutions around the country. Councils don’t need to be forced to work with Maori, we are already doing it of our own accord.”
“I completely agree that there needs to be change for the better and the new water quality rules go a long way towards addressing that, but each council should continue to have responsibility for their own assets to be accountable to their communities. It makes me wonder, what other areas of local government are going to be removed from community ownership?”
C4LD Chair and Manawatu District Mayor Helen Worboys said that this tinkering around the edges didn’t make the model itself any more palatable for communities.
“This is a dark day for local democracy as the Government has continued to force this reform through without the consent of its stakeholders or their communities.
“We could not be more disappointed that the Government has rejected an opportunity to reach a bi-partisan agreement that would deliver what they wanted, instead electing to press on with their reforms based on faulty assumptions and flawed analysis.
“Adding a Claytons shareholding for councils, that confers none of the normal benefits or obligations of ownership, does nothing to remove our real worries about community property rights and local voice.
“For us to hand over millions of dollars of assets our communities have paid for in return for a single share of no real value is absolutely absurd.
“If the Government can decide by decree to redefine ownership in this way it sets a worrying precedent over ownership on a far wider basis.”
The group has also condemned the further watering down of community input, which will particularly effect small councils.
“The model was already significantly flawed in denying any real influence from councils. With the new sub-regional groups it’s likely the voice and influence of smaller councils will be even more diluted,” she said.
“These changes will see many councils moved from being two steps away from the decision makers - to three.
“Our model shows how the outcomes of the reform can be delivered while ensuring the efficiencies of collaboration and balance sheet separation, but while still protecting local voice and community property rights.
“While we’re disappointed in this initial version of the legislation, we’re committed to working to get a better model in place that works for everyone.
“We’d urge everyone to get in touch with their local MPs to ensure they know what you think about this plan, and we’ll be encouraging significant local participation in the select committee process.”
For more information about Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mo te Manapori and its framework for better three waters reform that everyone can support, visit https://www.communities4localdemocracy.co.nz/ideas
Media Contact: Emma Rae