Monday, June 24, 2024

Mayors propose new path to Three Waters consensus

The Mayors of Auckland and Christchurch have proposed a joint plan to progress the nation’s divisive Three Waters issue and achieve consensus.

Auckland Mayor, Wayne Brown and Christchurch Mayor, Phil Mauger, are seeking support for their proposal to be considered and further developed by both central and local government as an alternative to the current plan.

Waimakariri Mayor, Dan Gordon has also backing the new proposal, after the three Mayors met in Tāmaki Makaurau yesterday.

“It is time for the old divisive argument to end, and for a new constructive conversation to begin to achieve consensus across Aotearoa New Zealand,” the three Mayors said in a joint statement.

The new proposal would maintain crucial aspects of central government’s existing plan, including the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai, while maintaining local ownership, control and accountability, and allowing for meaningful roles for mana whenua.

Regional Water Organisations (RWOs), which would be unable to be sold outside local authority ownership, would have access to investment capital through a new Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF), administered by central government’s own Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIPs), best known for its successful roll-out of ultra-fast broadband.

The degree of any formal co-governance over RWOs would be determined by each local community in consultation with mana whenua rather than by central government, the Mayors said.

“Everyone agrees tens of billions of dollars need to be invested over several decades to upgrade New Zealand’s freshwater, storm-water and waste-water infrastructure – and that requires maximum political consensus to deliver policy stability,” the Mayors said.

“As a nation, we need to find a way move forward in a positive and consensus manner – and stop the ugly and angry Three Waters debate that is dividing our county.”

The Mayors said recent local government elections had demonstrated that central government’s current proposal could never secure the necessary wide public support to be sustainable policy.

“If two Cantabrians and an Aucklander can agree on this new starting point, we think everyone else should at least be prepared to give it a decent look,” Christchurch’s Mayor Mauger said.

“Water assets are long term community investments that deliver services for decades, and we can’t afford wild policy swings each central- or local-government election,” said Waimakariri’s Mayor Gordon, a long-term proponent of a better deal for local government on water assets.

“Not everything in central government’s current plan is wrong, and we have included all the aspects of it that we believe can meet the all-important consensus test,” Auckland’s Mayor Brown said. “Further refinement and development will be needed as we all work together towards a national consensus, with clear benefits to every community identified, understood and accepted.”

In the meantime, co-operation with central government officials would continue at all three councils, fully reimbursed by central government.

Read the Mayors’ proposal here.

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