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Andrew Dickens: I won't be voting for a party that doesn't have a cogent water reform policy

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Feb 2023, 1:56PM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Andrew Dickens: I won't be voting for a party that doesn't have a cogent water reform policy

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Feb 2023, 1:56PM

As part of getting back to basics and bread and butter, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced that Three Waters is over.

Just the name, mind

It's an acknowledgement that the Opposition's campaign against Three Waters has tarnished its’ name.  So it's gone.  Not the reform. Just the name

That was met by crowing by National Party members.

In reply, I have said all along that I will not be voting for any party that doesn't have a cogent water reform policy.

If you've listened to me you'll know that Labour's water reform rankles with me because of the appropriation and redistribution of assets and debt raised on them.  It penalised the councils doing well and rewarded councils that have been slack in investment and maintenance. But it did address the issue of raising enough equity to fund the work that is necessary for a water system we can be confident in

So I was quite excited to see that National had finally stirred itself to present a water reform policy which they've called "Local Water Done Well".

So what is it?

Well in Chris Luxon's words: "a National Government will set and enforce strict water quality standards and require councils to invest in the ongoing maintenance and replacement of their vital water infrastructure, while keeping control of the assets that their ratepayers have paid for"

So far that's what we already have.

But it's made even harder for councils because the Government will create an agency to oversee and demand the Councils do a good job.

So there will be greater scrutiny and obligation on Councils to get it right, which is going to cost a lot of money.  So where's that coming from?

National will ensure that water assets and income are ring fenced from the Council's other activities so they'll be able to raise capital separately from the Council's books. But that doesn't help smaller councils with less assets and ratepayers

To help them they suggest the smaller cash strapped councils band together and form regional co-operatives to give them the ability to raise more money.  I'm starting to laugh now because that just seems like Three Waters, only voluntary.

National's plan is magical thinking. It's the status quo with even more costs.

It's worth reminding yourself that Water Reform is necessary because we don't have enough water pipes and the ones we do have are breaking and leaking and we need money to fix them.  It doesn't matter if that money is $130 billion as Labour says, or $100 billion, or $50 billion.  It's money that Councils don't have and to get it we're all going to have to pay more. Either through sky rocketing rates or massive new water charges.

National doesn't address that.  Nor does Labour.  So I guess I'm voting for no-one this year.

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