Mayors unhappy water reforms mark ‘dark day’ for democracy

2022-05-12T07:00:00.0000000Z

2022-05-12T07:00:00.0000000Z

NZME

https://communitynews.co.nz/article/281599539090632

News

Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mo¯ te Manapori, of which Waipa¯ District Council is a member, says Government plans to force through Three Waters reform virtually unchanged is a worrying attack on property rights and community voice. The changes embed an unusual public shareholding model, where shareholders would have no rights other than the ability to decide to privatise services or not. They also propose another level of complexity in governance, taking most councils even further away from a position of influence. C4LD chairwoman and Manawatu¯ District Mayor Helen Worboys said despite some tinkering around the edges it didn’t make the model itself any more palatable for communities. “This is a dark day for local democracy as the Government has continued to force this reform through without the consent of its stakeholders or their communities. “We could not be more disappointed that the Government has rejected an opportunity to reach a bipartisan agreement. “Adding a Claytons shareholding for councils, that confers none of the normal benefits or obligations of ownership, does nothing to remove our real worries about community property rights and local voice. “If the Government can decide by decree to redefine ownership in this way it sets a worrying precedent over ownership on a far wider basis.” Waipa¯ Mayor Jim Mylchreest said the Waipa¯ position on the proposed reform had not altered following the announcement and he noted there was a simpler solution to decades of insufficient funding for critical infrastructure. “The Government could simply provide financial support to communities that genuinely need that support due to their small rating base or specific challenges such as damage to existing infrastructure caused by natural events,” he said. “This income redistribution is clearly a responsibility of central and not local government. Then establish affordable standards and enforce them.” “Councils are not opposed to change but are concerned to ensure our communities receive appropriate levels of service at an affordable cost.” The C4LD group has also condemned the further watering down of community input, which will particularly affect small councils, said Worboys. “The model was already significantly flawed in allowing for any real influence from councils. “With the new sub-regional groups it’s likely the voice and influence of smaller councils will be even more reduced. “While we’re disappointed in this initial version of the legislation, we’re committed to working to get a better model in place that works for everyone,” she said. “We’d urge everyone to get in touch with their local MPs to ensure they know what you think about this plan, and we’ll be encouraging significant local participation in the select committee process.” For more information about Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mo te Manapori and its framework for Three Waters reform, visit www.communities4local democracy.co.nz/ideas.

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