Yes, that is a terrible pun, but don't let that put you off
A few months back, the government released their proposed Three Waters plan, one of the most significant reforms to both water management and local government in decades. Because of the COVID situation, it hasn’t been getting as much attention as it could have, which has allowed what little debate there is to be fuelled by personal interests and misinformation.
Local politicians are largely opposed to it because it removes the power from them. Despite having failed to act in a way that protects out water for successive councils over the past generation or two, local government doesn’t want to see this authority removed from them. Of course they are going to try and hold on to this as long as possible. But the sad reality is that local government has failed, repeatedly, to do what is needed to protect our water. There are no more second or third chances for them.
The reforms are nationwide, and would look to consolidate water management into 4 large regional authorities. Canterbury is a region that desperately needs something to change. Both the Christchurch City Council, with their incompetence around our drinking water supply, and ECan, with their inability to protect our waterways from dairying, have failed to do the jobs with respect to water.
Labour and the Greens have both campaigned on improving our water quality, and they were elected on the strongest mandate in decades. This is them trying to act decisively, to respond to the water crisis and turn around our rapidly degrading water quality. In opposition to this are a bunch of local body politicians who haven’t done anything to head off this crisis - but are desperately asking for another chance. This might like sour grapes from someone who has tried and failed to be one of those very councillors, and if I was an elected official I might be digging in my heels to try and stop this happening. But I’d like to think that as someone who believes that we need to do something significant - and that we needed to do it a decade ago - I’d see the writing on the wall, and try and work alongside the government rather than against them. Unfortunately, most our our local elected reps are more concerned about their own power than the people and the region they are meant to serve.
Councils don’t have the money to fix the problem, to make up for the decades of underinvestment in water infrastructure. They can’t raise the money, because the conversation about local government for the last 30 years has been dominated by keeping rates as low as possible. Councils up and down the country have been emaciated by the right-wing “run council like a business” crowd. They no longer have the capacity to ensure a critical service like water is going to be managed adequately. And quite frankly, the councils lack the leadership, and in many cases, the intellectual dexterity, to see through a project this complex.
I’m friends with many of the Labour councillors on Facebook, and it has been depressing to see them all posting in opposition to this plan, with the same ill-thought out slogans about privatisation and threats to democracy. So it was refreshing to see an opinion piece in support of the reforms from ECan councillor Lan Pham.
Unless we address the problem at scale, solutions are patchy, inadequate, expensive, and ultimately detrimental to our communities’ and environment’s health. Three waters reform is necessary to create the right regulatory and governance structures our uncertain future demands.
She wants to see an improvement in our water management, and can see that working alongside the government is more important than her own personal political power. I’d recommend reading the whole piece.