Over the last 18 months, Jordan, Louis, and more recently Callum, have fought tirelessly to lead the effort to stop the march of undemocratic co-governance throughout central and local government.

As someone of Ngātiwai heritage, I find it particularly galling that the Government claims that, to promote my interests, democratic accountability needs to be watered down – putting ‘co-governance’ arrangements in place, apparently in my name.

So it is with pleasure I am finally able to tell you about a large behind-the-scenes project the Taxpayers’ Union has been working on for about eight months. We have created a “People’s Bill” to repeal and replace Three Waters within 100 days of a new government.Local Water Infrastructure Bill – ‘The People’s Bill’

Late last year, the Taxpayers’ Union pulled together experts in local government, economics, infrastructure, and legal drafting to put in place an alternative model for an incoming government to pick up that would repeal and replace Nanaia Mahuta’s Three Waters.

We’ve had to keep the project quiet until we were confident that the work could withstand the inevitable scrutiny from Government officials, and the insiders who would benefit from the increased bureaucracy of ‘Three Waters’.

But as a Board, we’ve been very uncomfortable committing what has been a six-figure amount for a piece of work we’ve not been able to tell our supporters like you about, and the donors who made the work possible.  So I am delighted to finally be able to tell you about this substantial project.

An alternative to Three Waters that meets our red lines

Our alternative Local Water Infrastructure Bill that would replace Three Waters complies with the Taxpayers’ Union’s bottom lines of:

Respecting property rights – ratepayers funded councils to build water assets and they must retain the traditional rights of ownership.

Maintaining local accountability – the ultimate decision makers on water infrastructure should be only those who are democratically accountable. Retaining community control – councils must have control over local service delivery, including making decisions on setting charges and investment programmes.

Being able to opt in and out – councils can decide whether to join or leave shared arrangements with other councils in the long term, but must bear the costs of doing so. 

Ensuring efficient delivery – water services must be appropriate for local community needs without gold plating while meeting health and environmental standards. 

A water infrastructure reform model designed by experts but accountable to ratepayers

We established a Technical Advisory Group of experts to provide guidance and scrutiny for our model, which has been chaired by Malcolm Alexander, a former CEO of Local Government New Zealand.  We are indebted to him for the many of hours of time he has donated to working on this project.  He has been joined by:

Dr Eric Crampton – Chief Economist at The New Zealand Initiative

David Hawkins – former Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Watercare and former Mayor of Papakura District Council

Councillor Sam McDonald – Christchurch City Council

Ray Deacon – Economist at the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union and former Regulatory and Government Affairs Manager for Rio Tinto NZ.

The model proposed in the Bill was developed from published work by international water infrastructure experts Castalia, who developed Communities 4 Local Democracy’s (C4LD) model, and who have advised LGNZ, several councils and the Department of Internal Affairs on the water reforms.  Castalia were consulted on aspects of the model.As well as building on the model put forward by the C4LD group of 30 asset-owning councils, our alternative is consistent with the proposals put forward by the ACT Party and National Party – who both say they are committed to replacing Three Waters.

A Bill for rapid repeal and replacement 

Lawyers Brigitte Morton and Stephen Franks of Franks Ogilvie and an experienced former Parliamentary drafter have been tasked with implementing the Group’s directions in the form of comprehensive drafting instructions and detailed sections of a replacement bill that would allow for a swift repeal and replacement post-election should there be a change of Government.

The government’s Three Waters proposals would lead to higher water costs, no local control, more bureaucracy, and less democracy. This project sets out a substantive, workable alternative model that addresses the faults of Three Waters while fixing the problems councils currently face managing and funding water infrastructure.

Today’s NZ Herald has a long write up on the project [pay-walled] and copied at the end of this email is the media release Callum is about to send to other media.

We’ve also put a detailed Q&A on our website, which has more information on what we are proposing and how it would work.  We have also released a special edition Taxpayer Talk on the Local Water Infrastructure Bill. Jordan sat down to talk to Malcolm Alexander, Chair of the Technical Advisory Group, and Stephen Franks of Franks Ogilvie to discuss the project. You can listen to that episode here

We’ve won the politics, now it’s time to win the policy

The effort shows that while the Taxpayers’ Union is known for high impact campaigning, when it counts, we can pull together the necessary expertise to put forward credible policy alternatives. We should all be proud of how far the Taxpayers’ Union has come and that this has been a crowdfunded effort from thousands of New Zealanders who have joined us in saying we need to ‘Scrap Three Waters’.

From the beginning, Nanaia Mahuta and her colleagues have justified Three Waters by claiming “there is no alternative“.  Well this is the alternative – consistent with what the councils, ratepayers, and other political parties have demanded.  It is based on international best practice for how water utilities are governed and regulated, plus has the backing of a broad group of local government experts.  There is no reason why Labour couldn’t pick this up if they are genuine in their claims of wanting affordable, quality water infrastructure.

Thank you for making this work possible

As you will see, this has been a big effort.  And as you can imagine, it hasn’t come cheap!  So I wanted to take the opportunity on behalf of all of us at the Taxpayers’ Union to thank you for your support and, in particular, the many thousands of donors who have chipped in to the ‘Scrap Three Waters’ campaign and made this possible.

Yours sincerely, 

Laurie Kubiak
Laurence Kubiak
Chairman of the Board
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union