'We have to do something': PM on Three Waters reform, Covid rules, masks, and attacks on police

NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 Jul 2022, 3:16pm

'We have to do something': PM on Three Waters reform, Covid rules, masks, and attacks on police

NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 Jul 2022, 3:16pm

PM Jacinda Ardern says Three Waters reform is essential.

She said if the status quo was allowed to continue, ratepayers would face further challenges down the track.

"We have to do something."

Ardern - speaking to media this afternoon at her first media stand-up since returning from the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji last week - said it was important people were debating "the facts" about Three Waters.

It was the Government's job to dispel disinformation, she said.

Ardern said despite concerns about Three Waters reforms, there was common ground.

The status quo was "untenable", she said.

This was around the sheer cost of doing nothing, and the need to do things like building more housing.

Ardern is keen to see partnerships between local and central government on everything from Three Waters to climate change planning, she said.

Her comments came as Local Government NZ meets in Palmerston North today with a raft of ministers to speak - including Ardern - and the controversial Three Waters reform on the agenda.

The Government this week announced a $44 million package to help councils bed in reforms.

This is on top of a $2.5 billion funding package, announced at last year's conference by Ardern, intended to compensate councils for the reforms, of which $500 million was to ensure they were no worse off through the transition period.

The remainder was to allow them to pay for other infrastructure and "wellbeing investments" - but has been criticised as a "bribe" by those opposed to it.

The water reforms have split councils – about half have joined the Communities 4 Local Democracy coalition opposed to the reforms as they are currently proposed. Auckland Council is not in that coalition, but is also opposed to fundamental elements of the reforms.

LGNZ had approached the Government over safety concerns around the need to publish home addresses of would-be councillors, Ardern said in a media standup before her speech to the conference.

Ardern said it was a "tough time" to be a public official.

The government would work with LGNZ in addressing those concerns, she said.

On the Covid outbreak and wage subsidy, Ardern said that had applied where there was restraint on trade.

Those things were not in place now, although there were staff shortages.

Payment for those who needed to isolate continued, Ardern said.

There were no plans to reinstate the wage subsidy, and no plans to move to a red traffic light setting.

Ardern said politicians were role models. She said she thought everyone would have heard circumstances around the mask photo.

Ardern said she was asked from time-to-time to take her mask off for photos. In future, she would be "more diligent" in declining such requests.

"We are all role models, we at times make mistakes, but we are role models," she said.

Ardern, in line with health experts, has been urging the public to wear masks in all high-risk situations and particularly in crowds indoors. She has said such measures mean the country would not need to move to the red setting, with more restrictive gathering limits.

On Tuesday, Ardern posted a photo to social media showing herself in a large group of politicians and youth MPs inside at Parliament, without masks on.

While the photo drew wide criticism from health experts who say it sets a poor example and sends confusing messaging, Opposition MPs have come to her defence.

A spokesman for Ardern said it was only a brief moment without masks for the photo.

On Covid isolation times, Ardern said experts said it was still making a difference in case numbers.

Every day the isolation period decreased, case numbers went up.

On a video showing a police officer being punched to the ground, Ardern said the action was covered by current legislation.

She said she came from a police family, had enormous respect for the jobs they had to do. It was a reality they faced dangerous situations, and it was the Government's job to reduce that as much as possible.

Ardern said she hoped for the speediest recovery possible for the police officer.

RNZ reported this morning the gift came from a businessman who had previously been investigated under the Forests Act in 2019, after exporting swamp kauri to China and calling it artwork. Products must be manufactured not just raw wood.