10th March 2022
A Northland local government leader says his participation in the Government’s latest efforts to address major national concerns around Three Waters representation, governance and accountability have done nothing to quell his fears.
Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith said after being part of the new working group set up by the Government, he still has concerns for New Zealand’s democracy.
Smith, Northland Mayoral Forum chairman, was a member of the Government working group tasked with addressing Three Waters restructure sticking points for local government around future representation, governance and accountability.
“I participated in the working group in good faith. There is much that’s good in this journey but at the end it’s become clear to me that while there is a need for some kind of water system reform, this one fails to address the fundamental issue of funding investment in our infrastructure and seeks to adjust governance in a way that limits the ability of all people and communities to engage,” Smith said.
“In light of this I don’t support the direction of the reforms and believe … [they] … are the wrong answer to the right question. At the end of all this journey I’m sad to say these Three Waters reforms get a ‘yeah, nah’ from me.”
Growing local government concern about representation, governance and accountability have seen the unprecedented startup of a new breakaway Communities for Local Democracy (C4LD) group of now 30 of New Zealand’s 67 councils and representing 1.5 million people. KDC, FNDC and WDC are among the C4LD group.
Smith said his working group participation saw him change tack and now join Whangārei District Council (WDC), Far North District Council (FNDC) and Auckland Council in rejecting Three Waters participation.
Three Waters restructuring would see these four councils’ drinking water, wastewater and stormwater functions merged into a giant top-of-New Zealand water services entity currently called entity A.
“I believed the reforms could be an opportunity for mana enhancement for councils and for iwi, that strengthening our democratic institutions is vital. I’m saddened that I believe the output of the working group does not seek to strengthen our democratic institutions or the work those institutions do with and for their people,” Smith said.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai, who is a member of the C4LD oversight group, said the working group’s recommendations to Government around dealing with the three sticking points of representation, governance and accountability simply made her council more determined in its High Court Three Waters challenge.
15th March 2022
THREE WATERS PLAN ‘ RECKLESS’
The government’s Three Waters Reform plan to create regional
authorities to remove control from councils has been roundly
rejected by Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith as “bad policy and a
recklessness of the government.”
Dr Smith is the sole Northland member of the working group set up to advise on representation, governance and accountability in the water plan put forward by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
“Being on the working group, I got many new understandings, but regrettably, they sit uncomfortably with me. I now join my fellow mayors of northern New Zealand in not supporting these reforms,” Dr Smith said. “Public systems must be accountable to everyone when they are for everyone. This Three Waters Review has not demonstrated that will be the case. Public engagement and everyone being allowed to participate equally in the creation of plans or ideas is simply good governance. “As a Doctor of Public Policy, I’m reflecting that the Three Waters Reforms are most likely a Trojan Horse for ‘ending the tyranny of the majority’. “Looking at the proposed reform programme in its entirety, including its new recommendations, which have potentially increased the geographic scope away from local broken pipes to every square inch of New Zealand and 12 miles out to sea, these reforms are becoming about something much larger than infrastructure. “I see it as bad policy and a recklessness of the government to allow this situation to develop. ‘Ending the tyranny of the majority’, is potentially a revolutionary development for New Zealand society, as the majority is where the safe seat of society is found, and to up-end that is a
very uncertain path. “Ending the tyranny of the majority could well mean stopping democratic institutions from doing their best for all the people, and I can’t support that. On
behalf of the people I represent — I reject these proposed reforms.”