How mayors across New Zealand reacted to Three Waters mandate

The Government is pushing through its Three Waters reforms come hell or high water. 

The plan takes power off local councils to manage drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. Being part of it was originally voluntary but is now compulsory and extremely tricky for future governments to unpick. 

Four publicly-owned entities will be created to ensure access to water infrastructure without ballooning costs. The Government says after 30 years, households will save annually between $1080 in Christchurch and up to $7800 in Kaipara. 

The vast majority of councils are fuming and Opposition parties are promising to kill the reforms if given a chance. 

From the Far North, to Auckland, to Hastings, to Porirua to Christchurch - this is how mayors across the motu reacted to the Government forcing Three Waters reforms on them.

"A mistake," said Far North Mayor John Carter.

"At this point - unacceptable," said Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. 

"Devastation, actually - we are devastated," said Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

"I was disappointed that the Government had decided to proceed with mandating councils," said Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. 

Porirua is one of few on board. 

"It's positive," said Anita Baker, Mayor of Porirua City.

According to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, "They may not be popular but they are necessary."

After eight weeks of consulting on the plan to amalgamate council-owned water infrastructure into four regional bodies, the Government has decided to force councils to hand over their assets.

"The case for change was compelling," Mahuta said. "The more we found out, the more we realised that something had to change."

The Government says the plan will come into effect by 2024, and over the next 30 years create up to 9000 new jobs, boost the economy by up to $23 billion, and save households thousands in water bills.

But iwi are concerned about the flow-on effects for Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

"We're not convinced that a catch-all phrase that Treaty settlements will not be undermined actually goes far enough to protect the very specific and sophisticated redress mechanisms that we've got in place," says Waikato Tinui's Linda Te Aho. 

Most mayors hate that it's being forced on them.

"We agree that there's a problem, we're not opposed to reform, we just think the model is wrong," says Dalziel. 

"What we don't want is it to be mandated - that's an insult to us," says Carter. 

Mahuta is firing back

"There's an element of self interest coming from councillors," she said.

"Any concern coming from councils that this is a confiscation of assets is misplaced - they are wrong, that is not happening."

But that's not what the Opposition is saying, with National MP Nicola Willis describing it in Parliament as "state-sponsored theft". 

"This is undermining democracy, it is ripping assets off councils," said ACT leader David Seymour. "If the Government steals them, ACT will be campaigning to return stolen property."

But despite the flood of criticism, the Government is sailing fullsteam ahead.

With the massive majority of the 67 mayors pushing back against this plan, the Government has decided to set up a technical working group made up of iwi, industry and local government experts.

But they'll just be tweaking the edges of this plan. The Local Government Minister said they'd considered 30 different models but this plan is the only way to go.