Mahuta grabbing assets from local councils, rushing Three Waters mandate

Lloyd Burr 27/10/2021

LISTEN: The Three Waters mandate is the government's controversial and polarising plan to streamline New Zealand's freshwater, stormwater and wastewater by merging all the responsibilities from 67 councils nationwide into just four authorities.

Is it a good or bad thing?

Green Party spokesperson for Three Waters Eugenie Sage, who is also a former Conservation Minister, said today's announcement will not "reassure" councils that their voices will be heard, but admits reform is needed.

"The status quo is not an option," she told Lloyd Burr Live.

"We need to provide better delivery of drinking water and wastewater. The Greens want stormwater to stay with councils because the whole pattern of urban development really influences the way stormwater is generated and it's much more logical to have councils, which manage land use, being responsible for stormwater."

The government is setting up a working group and plans to have the legislation across the line by Christmas.

Sage believes that's not enough time.

"We want more time so that there's genuine engagement between central and local government, and we have a reform that there is widespread agreement to," Sage told Magic Talk.

Councils around the country have raised a number of concerns with the Three Waters reform.

Christopher Luxon, National's local government spokesperson, said the mandate is just an "asset grab" and a "power steal" from local councils.

"It's all about centralisation and control," he told Lloyd Burr Live.

"It's taking power and control away from local communities. So for us, that's about undermining local democracy, local communities and localism in general."

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has refused to listen to local mayors, of which 60 out of the 67 oppose the Three Waters reform as it's "broken and unworkable".

"She's not listening, she's steamrolling it through, she's going to acquire those assets," Luxon said.

The National Party opposes the legislation and would repeal it, sending the assets back to local councils.

But Stormwater Advisory Group's David Warburton says the "reality" is that most local authorities don't have the budget or means to meet the requirements needed for a safe and well-functioning stormwater system.

"Some areas are struggling. Auckland's got a lot of new infrastructure because of the growth," he told Magic Talk.

Listen to the full interview with Eugenie Sage, Christopher Luxon and David Warburton above.

Magic Talk | Lloyd Burr Live, weekdays from 4pm.

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