Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta guarantees Three Waters will deliver 'long-term resilience' for future generations

The Three Waters reforms will lead to "better cities and quality of life" across New Zealand, says Nanaia Mahuta. 

Mahuta, the Local Government Minister, said she has taken advice from the Select Committee on board and made appropriate changes to Three Waters ahead of its third reading in Parliament next week. 

Mahuta was quick to point out that of the 88,000 submissions to the Select Committee, 82,000 of them were form submissions, meaning "they were all pretty much the same and they were probably a page long". 

It's unclear what weight is given to the form submissions.

The committee did an analysis of the roughly 7000 remaining submissions "and then undertook to hear a number of them, travel around the country, and then gathered all of that information to consider the workability of the bill that was before them", according to Mahuta.

As a result, tweaks were made to the Three Waters Bill last week. 

Last week Mahuta said these tweaks "improve local voice, strengthen [the] representation and increase transparency. 

"They will also provide certainty to councils and those working in the water services sector about the future of our critical infrastructure."

During an interview with Newshub Nation, aired on Saturday, she claimed this demonstrated "we are listening". 

"The Select Committee process is an opportunity to listen and engage with the legislation that is currently in front of it," she said.

There were no changes to the co-governance structure of Three Waters because "there were not a substantial number of submissions that advocated for it", said Mahuta.

According to Mahuta, "co-governance was not as high a priority for submitters as it has been in the public domain and certainly in the debate in the House".

While Auckland's Watercare services currently operate successfully, Mahuta said "there are still constraints in terms of having a tied balance sheet" to the council.

In relation to Watercare, Mahuta said "we need to learn from that model and ensure that those benefits happen more even-handedly around the whole country for big and small communities alike".

While Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown wants to keep Watercare as it is, Mahuta said Watercare's constraints mean it cannot continue in its current state. 

"It's had to defer a number of programs by about two to three years because of a tied balance sheet with Auckland City Council."

One of the primary motivations for Three Waters is to avoid a spike in rates that would occur were councils to fund required changes to water infrastructure.

The Auckland Mayor's office and Watercare have rejected this, saying in Auckland's case the rates rise would be minimal and temporary. A 7 percent rates rise would go up to 9.5 percent, and then drop away once the investment is done.

But Mahuta said, "There's a lot of assumptions that are built into that, and part of that assumption is that in the future Government will continue to contribute to the infrastructure challenge that Auckland is facing.

"We can guarantee that there will be long-term resilience across a bigger area as a result of the Three Waters reforms."

"This is our model that will keep our children safe now and going forward into the future."

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