By David Hill
Craig Mackle is in no mood to hand over Kaikoura’s water assets.
Responding to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s announcement on Wednesday that the government will legislate to push through its Three Waters reform, the Kaikoura Mayor says he will not be signing anything.
“It’s quite unbelievable, it’s much, much bigger than the three waters, it goes back to democracy.
“Nobody has spoken directly to us. We have a $57 million asset and they’re saying we need to spend $280 million on it, but they can’t explain it.
“It’s not good that you can just do that without without answering questions. I’ve asked simple questions several times and they’ve never been answered.”
While he acknowledges reform is needed, Mr Mackle suspects something more sinister is at hand and wonders if the Three Waters reform is just the beginning.
“It’s amalgamation by stealth,” he says.
“This is bigger than the Three Waters reform and I have grave concerns for the future of local democracy and democracy in general in New Zealand.”
Taking away Three Waters assets will potentially make many councils, including Kaikoura unviable, he says.
“They are taking away our biggest asset, so it cuts our ability to borrow and it means you cannot take on any major building projects.
“Major projects need to be inter-generational so the costs are shared over the generations who will benefit from them, so you need to have the ability to borrow.”
On the other hand, Mr Mackle wonders if the government’s plan is to “over-inflate” the value of the country’s Three Waters infrastructure so it can double its borrowing capability.