Government advances controversial waters legislation

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Aug 23, 2023 |

The Government has today passed the next key piece of legislation of its controversial three waters legislation.

The Water Services Legislation Bill builds on the Water Services Entities Act that was passed last week, which established the 10 entities.

Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty said “The Bill we’ve passed today sets out the functions and powers for them, along with what they’re required to do, the tools they need for their work, and arrangements for the changing to the new system.”

“The need for a comprehensive overhaul of New Zealand’s water services was identified over 20 years ago by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. It was again identified in 2010 by the previous Government’s Land and Water Forum, and then by the inquiry into the 2016 Havelock North water contamination incident which killed four New Zealanders.”

“These reforms have been complex and challenging, however growing cost of living pressures and recent extreme weather events have shown that the decision to step up and take action is the right one for New Zealanders.

“We entered into this process in good faith and explored all alternatives put forward. None of them enabled councils to remove debt from their books, which is a crucial element to keeping rates rises low.

“Leaving things as they are quite simply would have meant unaffordable rates bills, and more difficulty in operating the country’s water services.

 “The new entities on the other hand will help optimise funding and resourcing of the water network, helping to ensure that New Zealand’s drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater system remain affordable safe, reliable, and resilient for future generations.

“Labour introduced almost 300 pages of amendments to its unworkable”

Meanwhile, National’s Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts said Labour introduced almost 300 pages of amendments to its unworkable Three Waters bill just hours before it was to be debated last night and only a week before the 53rd Parliament ends.

“In another desperate move by the Labour Government, it yesterday tabled a 286-page amendment to the Water Services Legislation Bill.

“The original bill alone is just over 300 pages, and these additional last minute changes show just how unworkable Labour’s Three Waters has become.

“There are significant changes such as the Chatham Islands being included again after previously being excluded, and moving the date the bill comes into law from 2024 to immediately after it’s passed – possibly as soon as this week.

“Trying to rush through such a large bill and not allowing Parliament to do its democratic duty to give it proper scrutiny will only end up coming back on New Zealanders and their water.

“Labour’s Three Waters has been a disaster from the start, and it has now written its last sorry chapter. Under a National government this undemocratic bill will be gone in the first 100 days.

“Unlike Labour’s broken reforms, National has a plan so Kiwis don’t have to worry about sewage on their streets, un-swimmable beaches, or having to boil their drinking water.

“National’s Local Water Done Well will return assets to councils, and set up strict rules for water quality and financial stability so Kiwis can be confident in their water services while keeping them in local hands where they belong.”

The third and final Bill comprising the water reforms, the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill, is set to pass its third reading in the coming days.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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