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LGNZ applauds strengthening public ownership of water assets

LGNZ welcomes the Three Waters Representation, Governance and Accountability Working Group recommendations, especially the proposal for council shareholding to further strengthen community ownership, added protections against privatisation, a strengthened focus on the health and wellbeing of our water, and much stronger mechanisms for local voice.

LGNZ President Stuart Crosby congratulates the independent Working Group on carrying out the ‘circuit breaker’ role it was given. 

“The enhancements the Working Group have recommended should go a long way in providing councils and communities with the added protection they were asking for. We would encourage all councils to take a fresh look at the Government’s proposal in the light of these recommendations,” says Crosby.

“Of the concerns raised by councils and the public, possibly the loudest, was a sense that ownership of the assets paid for by communities over many years was being taken from them. Having councils hold shares in the new entities on behalf of their communities is a critical change that responds directly to that feedback. We’re pleased to see such a pragmatic recommendation on this from the Working Group,” says Crosby. 

“Strengthening community ownership of our water assets through the proposed council shareholding structure addresses many of the fears around privatisation head on.

“We also welcome the Working Group’s recommendations around a stronger local voice in the new system, and new mechanisms to feed local priorities into the Regional Representative Group.

“We agree with the proposed stronger accountability between the Water Services Entity Board and the Regional Representative Group, which is made up of local government and iwi/hapū representatives.

“And we strongly support the affirmation of co-governance and strengthening the role of Te Mana o te Wai at the heart of the new approach.

“Te Mana o te Wai recognises that the health and wellbeing of water is fundamental to the future health and wellbeing of people and communities — it is about looking after water for everyone’s benefit. If we respect water and prioritise its health, we support our communities’ wellbeing. When you appreciate what Te Mana o te Wai means, it’s hard to argue with.”       

Mr Crosby says LGNZ endorses the process the Working Group has followed, including its openness and transparency.

“LGNZ pushed hard for the establishment of the Working Group under the Heads of Agreement it signed with the Crown last year so our members’ concerns could be heard and addressed — and that’s what the Working Group has done.

“We strongly encourage the Minister to consider and adopt the Working Group’s recommendations.

“I want to acknowledge the significant time and energy put into what’s been a very intensive process by the Mayors and Iwi Māori representatives in the Working Group. It’s been a highly collaborative and constructive exercise, which bodes well for the way we work together for the good of all New Zealanders.”

Public feedback on this reform is critical. Depending on what the Minister recommends, there will be a public consultation as part of the Select Committee process.

“LGNZ has pushed hard for better public communications from the Government throughout the reform process,” says Crosby.  “So, we were very pleased the Working Group also highlighted the need for much stronger and clearer communications to ensure the public understands these complex reforms, why they’re necessary, and the benefits they’ll bring to New Zealand communities.”