By ROBYN BRISTOW
North Canterbury Mayors have returned from a visit to Parliament last week heartened at the opportunity to voice their concerns about the Governments Three Waters reforms.
They were part of a group Communities 4 Local Democracy, He Hapori mo te Manapori councils representing over a million New Zealanders, who met politicians across the party spectrum and Labour.
Membership is growing as local councils consider the implications of the proposed Three Waters legislation, in particular losing control of about $60 billion of community-owned assets across the country. Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle, Hurunui Mayor Marie Black, and Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon say the visit was very successful.
Politicians were told the group is positive about change, but change needed to benefit their communities. This seemed to have been lost in the policy position of the Government.
Mrs Black says she was proud to represent the “significant voice” of the Hurunui District in an environment where the group was received with respect.
She believes the deputation opened the door for further discussion.
‘‘It would be great if we could get the Government to push pause, but I am not sure it wants to be that bold.
‘‘But it would be wrong for us to not keep on trying,’’ she says.
Mr Gordon, who is deputy chair of the group, says the conversations had with all the major political parties, including the
Government and the Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, were constructive.
‘‘They’ve also said they want to continue to hear from us and we are looking to organise further meetings next year.
‘‘It’s important that the voice of over one million New Zealanders is heard.
‘‘Our campaign launch has opened the door for future meetings where we can continue to push for better quality reform, where our communities have a say,’’ Mr
‘‘Our action group will introduce fresh ideas for better water.
‘‘The difference will be that our fresh ideas will be those which have the support of ratepayers as well as being locally accountable and responsive.’’
Kaikoura’s Mayor Mr Mackle says it felt awesome to be a part of the movement.
‘‘The meeting resulted in some really supportive cross-party conversations.’’
Group chair, Manawatu Mayor Helen Worboys, says the group wants to ensure all New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water.
She says there is a better way to achieve the Governments objectives and the group wanted to work in partnership with them on that.
‘‘This is an inclusive campaign. It is about safe drinking water for all New Zealanders, whoever and wherever they are.
‘‘More meaningful Mana Whenua representation is an important part of that.
‘‘It’s also an apolitical campaign were completely focused on the issue regardless of political affiliation,’’ says Ms Worboys.
‘‘We are the elected local voice of our communities that are very clearly telling us that they don’t want to lose control of the assets that generations of our ratepayers built up and paid for, being snatched away from them as part of the Governments plan,’’ Ms Worboys says.
‘‘We don’t believe that the best solution lies in putting our assets into what will be four of the largest companies in New Zealand and then denying our communities their say in how those companies are run.’’
She says Communities 4 Local Democracy is taking a constructive approach to the situation by commissioning expert advice on alternative models that might achieve the objectives of Government and local communities.
■ Three partner councils — Whangārei District Council, Timaru District Council and Waimakariri District Council — recently filed a High Court application seeking clarification of what ownership means in relation to their ratepayer-funded water assets.
Between them, these three councils have $1.76 billion in ratepayer funded water nfrastructure.