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Chris Trotter: Three Waters. Three Mayors. Three Cheers!

THE THREE MAYOR’S proposed revision of Three Waters is timely, sensible, and ought to be accepted by the Labour Government. If Jacinda Ardern and her colleagues press on regardless, then the electorate will know just how little Three Waters has to do with securing an affordable upgrade of New Zealand’s water infrastructure, and how much the controversial scheme is now about mandating the co-governance of water.


Not that the Prime Minister will admit that co-governance is the driver of the proposed reforms. To do so would be to lay upon the table, for free and frank debate, the fraught issues of radical constitutional change, and the future of our democracy. Ms Ardern is, almost certainly, in possession of poll data indicating that any such debate would be lost by her Government – decisively.


No, the Prime Minister’s explanation for why the Three Waters project must proceed is already being aimed, unwaveringly, at the voter’s back-pocket. If Three Waters isn’t implemented, she is warning the electorate, council rates are going to go through the roof.


Caught in the grip of a serious cost-of-living crisis, citizens desperate to get their household budget under control will receive the PM’s message with relief. If Three Waters can prevent the average household’s rates bill from skyrocketing, then the average household will more than likely give “Jacinda” the big thumbs-up.


What the average household almost certainly doesn’t realise is that the Prime Minister is spinning them a yarn. Providing the nation with clean drinking water, dealing with its stormwater, and getting rid of its waste water, is already costly, and cannot help getting costlier. Three Waters, or no Three Waters, there’s a mighty big bill coming New Zealand’s way – and, for better or for worse, New Zealanders will have to pay it.


But, how will they pay it? That is the $64 billion (at the very least!) question. The most obvious answer: and the one Mayor Wayne Brown in Auckland, Mayor Phil Mauger in Christchurch, and the Mayor of the Waimakariri District, Ben Gordon, reached for with plain, old-fashioned, common-sense, was that the state should pay.


Nothing can borrow money more cheaply than a solvent, sovereign state. Why? Because states, unlike people, corporations, and even banks, are immortal. There was a time when investors thought of municipalities in the much the same way. If nation states weren’t going anywhere, then neither were their cities and towns. But then New York City went bust, and international investors had to think again.


States, too, thought it advisable to impose strict limits on their borrowing. That’s why, for the last 40 years, successive Finance Ministers have forced local government to borrow the money it needed on the open market. The problem with this “solution” is that a city’s credit-card is maxed-out a lot faster than a state’s. Ditto, its rate-payers’ willingness to pay more and more and more. The present government has heaped scorn and derision on local authorities for their failure to adequately manage municipal infrastructure. Unfair. Those responsible for starving a person, are not really entitled to then complain about their victim’s weakness!


The Three Waters project, with its four “entities” and their hideously complex financial and governance structures, was the Government’s answer to local government’s maxed-out credit cards. The water entities could borrow the money that New Zealand’s cities, towns and districts could no longer access.


There was, however, a catch. According to the international credit-rating agencies, the four entities had to be protected from politics. International investors do not like politics – it’s messy and destabilising. If the cost of drinking, storm and wastewater management rose sharply, said the credit-raters, then the entities responsible had to be protected from every kind of consumer backlash. Whatever else these big beasts might be – they won’t be in any way democratically accountable.


Small wonder, then, that iwi authorities, and the co-governance faction of the Labour Government, were so keen to hitch a ride on the Three Waters bus!


Labour’s big mistake was letting them climb on board. Because, by doing so, it turned the Three Waters project into the hottest of political hot potatoes. And what don’t international investors like? That’s right: putting their money into political hot potatoes.


If this government has a lick of sense, it will greet the Three Mayor’s solution to Three Waters with three cheers.



This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 4 November 2022. Chris Trotter blogs here.

4,025 views83 comments

83件のコメント


Well written article Chris. Labour & Democrats have changed from being parties that look after those who struggle, to parties who now live in the pockets of big business and the global (& maori) elites. This started under Obama and has accelerated ever since. Also, politicians used to be capable people who served their time out in business and administration, who then applied their highly honed skills in politics. Now we have career politicians who are there for themselves dancing like puppets on a string. Case in point right here! The leader of our pack was described by one of her opposition MPs as 'intellectually challenged'. He could have added 'seriously' to that. Little wonder that anybody thinks this 3…

いいね!
ron
ron
2022年11月06日
返信先

3 waters was never intended to "work" other than as a convenient vehicle to cede power and income to Maori in support of a wider Maorification agenda.

いいね!

How convenient (for the tooth witch and her team of sycophant serfs) that there is a serious cost of living crisis.

To quote William Shakespeare "A pox upon you all"

いいね!

ron
ron
2022年11月05日

"Maxed out credit card" is spot on imagery of where many, perhaps most local councils find themselves right now.


Though it is not correct that the Government is merely "letting" iwi tribal corporates on-board a 3 waters potential gravy train, any more than they're "letting" radical Maori leadership progress He Puapua. On the contrary, the Ardern Government, certainly Ardern herself, going just by her various Maori related interventions, is a deeply radicalised proactive driver of decolonisation, via re-indiginisation, who cares little and knows even less about money, and without the street wise cunning needed to be a key planner of the great Maori coup. Consequently it is more like Government "letting" Maori radical leadership do the planning for co-governance, …


いいね!
basilwnz
basilwnz
2022年11月06日
返信先

I’d say you touched on the key points there Ron. At the risk of repeating myself, that old saying “just follow the money” is as relevant as it ever was - explains a lot, quite simply (forget the rhetoric).

いいね!

3 Waters = Labour's Water Loo.

いいね!
Peter Y
Peter Y
2022年11月05日
返信先

One lives in hope.

いいね!

Money is the bait on all sides of this debate, maori elite want to line their pockets, rate payers want to hold onto as much of their hard earned money as possible, there is no real answer except it is going to cost, not only money but also our democracy if we let it slip through.

いいね!
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