Here we have one of those cases where the Government is telling sceptics they’re ill-informed, and more of the few are replying that they know they’re not well informed, and that’s why they have to be sceptical. Southland Times, 30 October 2021

Things must be getting bad for the government

By Roger Childs

This looks like a classic case of “biting the hand that feeds”. The Southland Times is one of Stuff’s government-subsidized newspapers, but instead of toeing the line on the proposed Three Waters legislation, it has recently launched an editorial attack on the reforms’ sponsor — Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

In parliament National’s Nicola Willis quoted Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalzell statement that communities had been robbed of a voice over the proposed reforms. Mahuta’s response was: Communities have had the opportunity to have a say through their councils on this issue… The Southland Times view on this was: This is arrant nonsense.

The editorial also drew attention to the fact that the government had earlier said that councils would be able to opt out of being part of one of the four entities. Not anymore.  There was also criticism of the so-called consultation that will be offered before the legislation is passed. Furthermore The Times was sceptical about Mahuta’s claim that they had a good line of sight and understanding of what the problem is and what we are trying to fix, observing that that’s not the same as knowing enough to assess how well the proposed fix would work. Was this a veiled criticism of iwi involvement in the governance?

It was also unimpressed with the minister’s assurance that all communities will benefit.

A fork in the road

When the historians come to write the story of the fall of the Jacinda government, the failure to consult councils and the public over the Three Waters reforms may well be seen as the key turning point. This is yet another step on the road to achieving the ultimate goal of Joint Crown-Maori governance of the country by 2040, and another example of the government riding roughshod over the basic principles of democracy that New Zealand is built on.

We have been used to seeing the Stuff papers cheering the government that helps finance them and keeps them in business, so it is encouraging to see the Invercargill paper at least standing up for the people and challenging this latest example of failure to consult and not following the democratic process.