by the Taxpayers Union—
Buried in Mahuta’s Bill: The Government has added a second layer of co-governance to the Three Waters regime!
Last week’s newsletter was sent just after the formal introduction to Parliament of the core Three Waters legislation – the euphemistically-named “Water Services Entities Bill”. Back in the office, the team have now had a chance to work through the detail.
You couldn’t make this up: instead of listening to local councillors’ and community concerns about the reduced democratic control, Nanaia Mahuta has inserted a second layer of co-governence at the last minute!
It’s a bit sneaky, but it works like this: Clause 73 of the Bill requires the Boards of the new water entities ensure that the entity acts in a manner consistent with its objectives, functions, operating principles, and current statement of intent.
That sounds fair enough, but among the ‘operating principles’ (Clause 13(d)) is:
partnering and engaging early and meaningfully with Māori, including to inform how the water services entity can—
(i) give effect to Te Mana o te Wai; and
(ii) understand, support, and enable the exercise of mātauranga Māori, tikanga Māori, and kaitiakitanga
The meaning of “Te Mana o te Wai” refers back to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (here’s a good summary) but in short, it is incredibly broad and includes matters relating to the spiritual or metaphysical well-being of water and water bodies and tangata whenua’s relationship with the same.
Mana whenua whose rohe or takiwā (district) includes a freshwater body in the service area of an entity get to define the relevance of Te Mana o te Wai by making what are termed “Te Mana o te Wai statements” (see Clause 140).
The water entity board must respond to the statement and the response must include a plan for how the entity intends to perform its duty to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai.
So who is really in charge?
We understand from our sources within the Government that the Minister justifies the change on the basis that it placates small hapu who were concerned that with the enormous entities, smaller iwi groups would be “locked out”. In short, the ability for any iwi or hapu to issue a “Te Mana o te Wai statement” is seen as a feature not a bug.
And there’s also a new layer of bureaucracy
The Bill also adds yet another layer of bureaucracy: “Regional Advisory Panels”.
The role of Regional Advisory Panels is to provide advice to the Regional Representative Group about how to perform or exercise its duties, functions, and powers within a geographic area. But unlike Te Mana o te Wai statements, the advice is not binding, and the Regional Advisory Panels are themselves co-governed, with 50/50 mana whenua and democratically accountable representation.
by Karl du Fresne from his blog
The blandly named Water Services Entities Bill, aka Three Waters, passed its first reading [last week] – an event virtually ignored by most mainstream media outlets, reflecting their wilful indifference to an issue arousing acute agitation in the heartland (or as on-trend journalists would say, “across the motu”). Cynics will quite reasonably suspect that the media’s failure to subject the Bill’s co-governance provisions to anything resembling critical analysis is linked to their craven acceptance of the ideological conditions attached to funding from the Public Interest Journalism Fund, aka the Pravda Project.
You can read the Hansard record of the first reading debate here. It’s worth reading for Nanaia Mahuta’s speech, which raised the bar for bare-faced spin to a new level, and for Labour’s arrogant failure to explain, still less defend, the co-governance proposals that are driving much of the opposition to the Bill.