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John MacDonald: 3 Waters, a shameful waste of money - not just by Labour

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 13 Feb 2024, 12:30PM
Photo / Michael Cunningham | File
Photo / Michael Cunningham | File

John MacDonald: 3 Waters, a shameful waste of money - not just by Labour

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 13 Feb 2024, 12:30PM

I reckon the current government is going to be hauled across the coals just as much as the last government was for wasting public money. 

It’s going full steam ahead ditching the 3 Waters reforms, which would have taken control of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater away from local councils and handed it all over to new water authorities. The reforms would also have taken away ownership of water infrastructure. 

It was Labour’s big idea and the whole thing got hijacked by one little aspect of it - co-governance. And, once that train had bolted, it seemed there was no going back. 

Not that that was enough to stop the Labour government from blindly pressing on, even when it started looking more and more likely that it was going to be goneburger after the election. 

It tried re-branding it and handing-over the job of selling it to us to Kieran McAnulty. 

And, of course, by blindly pressing-on despite all the writing on the wall, the former government kept pouring money into it. 

Then we had the election, we eventually got a new coalition government, and the Local Government Minister, Simeon Brown, has announced that it will be repealed within the next week. 

It’s going to be a year-or-so before the Government comes up with an alternative but, essentially, councils will still be in control of water.  

Which I think makes no sense because I think funding water services is beyond the capabilities of most councils. In fact, all councils. Let alone delivery. 

But it's happening and are we going to pay for it. And I mean that literally.  

Because, by the time the Government finishes kicking 3 Waters into touch, the whole thing will have cost us $1.2 billion. 

That’s the cost of setting it up —which the last government did— and pulling it apart, which the current government is doing. $1.2 billion. 

Irrespective of whether you think 3 Waters was a good idea or not, how can you possibly think that that kind of waste is okay? 

Yes, Labour made a mess of it. And yes, I did say the other day that I think we were too quick to dismiss 3 Waters. Myself included. 

But what I’m saying here has nothing to do with whether 3 Waters was a good idea, or not. I’m saying that it’s absolutely ludicrous that we’ve got a government saying it’s going to stop wasting public money but, at the same time, use its ideological differences with the last government to justify pouring $1.2 billion down the drain. 

Even if it promised to repeal 3 Waters before the election, so what? 

Because, if you personally weren’t up for what Labour was proposing, would you really be going nuts if Christopher Luxon stood up and said "look, I know we said before the election that we’d get rid of it. But, if we do that now, it’s going to mean more than a billion dollars spent with nothing to show for it. So, instead, we’re going to refine what Labour started and make sure we get some sort of return on the investment that’s gone into it so far.”  

Are you telling me you’d be outraged if the Prime Minister or Simeon Brown stood up and said that? Of course you wouldn’t. 

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