Government's new take on Three Waters ruffles some feathers

  • 13/02/2024

The Government's new take on Three Waters is already ruffling some feathers. 

'Local Water Done Well' is the Coalition Government's replacement of Three Waters - which was the controversial overhaul, centralisation and co-governance of drinking, waste and storm-water infrastructure.  

Under the Coalition's plan, councils remained in charge of the infrastructure - but it also meant they must fund it too, which was the stumbling block that forced Labour to create Three Waters.

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said there were still some questions she wanted answered.  

Baker was in favour of Three Waters due to Porirua's desperate infrastructure investment needs.  

Nonetheless, she told AM she was "pleased" the Government had "gone on and said what they were going to do".  

While she was happy the Government was taking the water infrastructure off council balance sheets, "The bottom line? It still means that ratepayers [are] paying", she said.  

Anita Baker.
Anita Baker. Photo credit: AM

Glyn Lewers, the Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District, said the Government's plans weren't convincing him.  

He said the proof would be in the details.  

"I haven't heard anything about how they're actually going to increase the capacity of the market," Lewers told AM. "What I mean about that is, how we're going to actually drive excellence and contractors, designers actually figure out how we're going to finance this."  

Glyn Lewers.
Glyn Lewers. Photo credit: QLDC

The Government has been slammed by the Opposition, with Labour local government spokesperson Kieran McAnulty saying it was "certain" Kiwis would pay higher rates under this plan.  

McAnulty accused Coalition leaders National of ignoring New Zealand's water infrastructure issues.  

"Instead of helping councils deal with water infrastructure, they're kicking it back on residents and homeowners and washing their hands of a problem that needs a long-term solution," he said in a statement.  

"Councils can't do this by themselves but this is exactly where the Government has left them - without any support."     

But Prime Minister Christopher Luxon stood by his Government's plan, saying he wouldn't take "economic lessons from Labour".     

"All I'd just say to you is, this is the most efficient way of doing it when you compare the status quo - which is leaving it to councils to fund within their existing arrangements and balance sheets - that doesn't work," Luxon told AM on Wednesday. "Equally, when you've actually got these 10 mega, highly bureaucratic co-government entities - which is what the previous Government was proposing - that doesn't work."