Or is it one water?
When this scheme designed as it is to give some Maori tribes control over the management of our drinking water, storm water and disposal of sewerage there were cynics among us who wondered why any Maori tribe, given their acute commercial acumen would want the responsibility for the onerous, massively expensive and ongoing task of managing the disposal of our countries’ stormwater and sewage. The attraction of having a right of veto over the management of our drinking water is immediately apparent. It places a noose round the neck of our economy and affects every corner of society. It also opens the opportunity for massive unearned income by way of royalties to be levied on any use of fresh water.
Lest this is thought to be an unjustified calumny levelled at otherwise public-spirited members of society it is worth bearing in mind that Ngai Tahu have made an application to the High Court for control of all fresh water within their tribal boundary. The case is yet to be heard and no doubt has been shelved pending the outcome of the much more satisfactory and less tribally divisive provisions of the Mahuta bill currently before the House.
Ngai Tahu have shown commendable commercial acumen in the accumulation of unearned assets at the expense of the general taxpayers and rate payers. They have come a long way since the receipt of their windfall Treaty settlement (together with top ups, and right of first refusal over any government land becoming available in Canterbury.) They had the good sense in those days to retain the services of Graeme Sinclair an Ashburton lawyer and Sid Ashton a well-regarded Christchurch accountant in public practice to assist in maximising this windfall. Under the watchful guidance of these two shrewd businessmen and later the descendants of other evil colonists the affairs of the tribe have prospered, and its net worth is now thought to be measured in billions of dollars in property and investments. I say “thought to be” because the assets are held in charitable trusts, upon which they pay no tax, and nobody outside of the tribe knows the extent of its holdings or how much is spent on charitable objects. It is barely conceivable that such a shrewdly managed entity would want to be involved in anything as unproductive as storm water and sewerage disposal.
The other advantage of the Mahuta scheme as far as Ngai Tahu is concerned is that they have avoided any involvement in the management of the three waters with the tribes which are located in the Marlborough District. It has been lumped in with the East Coast tribes and decisions concerning Marlborough’s three waters will now be made by tribes located in the Gisborne area. There is an ancient enmity between the Marlborough tribes and Ngai Tahu which in its more recent historical context dates to the invasions of Te Rauparaha in the eighteen twenties in which he not only failed to conquer the area around Grovetown but escaped with his life only by throwing overboard the women folk he had brought with him. A later court action in which Ngai Tahu claimed “sovereignty” over the area failed in the Privy Council in the nineteen nineties. The animosity between these tribes continues and arose again within the last few months concerning a museum of Maori Artifacts at Ward, South of Blenheim. Ngai Tahu made it plain to the professionals involved that if any of the local tribes were involved, they would walk away. It can reasonably be assumed the inane decision to lump Marlborough in with tribes in Gisborne has its genesis in this ancient enmity.
Local Government New Zealand
For these reasons the intervention of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) in suggesting a “compromise” which apparently involves leaving storm water disposal as the responsibility of the rate payers is something which would no doubt be welcomed by Maori interests around the tribal board tables, and a further compromise might be waiting in the wings in which the cost of disposal of sewerage will also revert to the long-suffering ratepayers. It is hard to know because the role of LGNZ in this whole Three Waters business is to say the least murky. It is therefore timely look at who they are, what are their policies and objectives, and are they implementing them on behalf of their members. A clue to how this body regards itself is in the name it adopts “Ko Tatou.” An unhelpful name tag meaning “this is us” quite what the us is meant to convey is not clear. Presumably it is the tag meant to clarify for what purpose it exists. For those reasons readers will forgive me for using LGNZ in this article. The internet poster child for LGNZ is an attractive young woman with European features and a less attractive sprinkling of what appear to be brown dots on her face and neck. Presumably this in intended to convey some bi racial message.
The stated aim of LGNZ as somewhat clumsily stated in the Local Government Act 2002 is “to enable democratic local decision making and action and on behalf of communities.” LGNZ claims to “Provide the vision and voice for local democracy in Aotearoa” and asserts that it has the “bold ambition to create the most active and inclusive local democracy in the world.” (Whew.) It asserts that it will achieve these lofty goals by “policy development, advocacy and storytelling.” One assumes that the latter is not intended in the sense our parents used to rebuke us when we were caught out telling porkies.
The body is funded by substantial payments from each member council and various government grants. In 2022 these government grants totalled $16,656,102 up from grants of $321,905 in 2018. Nowhere in its public relations blurb does it mention whether the large increase in taxpayer funding comes at the price of an agreement similar to that imposed on any media outlet in taking their thirty pieces of silver. Armed with these substantial imposts of taxpayer money, not counting the $1,250,000 they receive from the Councils, LGNZ “in the face of enormous societal change and radical reform in the sector LGNZ has developed a new strategy to help shape and catalyse that change in a way that positively impacts councils and their communities…. Our new purpose local democracies vision and voice…. For Aotearoa New Zealand to be the most active and inclusive local democracy in the world.”
The blurb then sets out how this will be achieved using four Maori concepts (I spare you the confected language for concepts which did not exist in Aotearoa in 1840); connect, advocate, develop, include.” That these notions have a faintly colonial flavour to them seems lost on their authors. Leaving that aside these allegedly “Tikanga” principles will be relied on to “guide and influence huge reforms like Three waters, RMA reform and climate change, run local government better” (a task that the naïve reader might have assumed was carried out by the elected Council representatives). There is more of these grandiose objects and ambitions, but it would be tedious to further enumerate them suffice to say they are summed up in the stated “purpose.” “To be local democracy’s vision and voice … and the most inclusive local democracy in the world.” This will all be achieved by; “strong mutually beneficial engagement and partnerships with central government Iwi Maori Taituara.” For those readers not yet fluent in the language one of the meanings of the word is “to support.”
That then is a summary of the aims and objects of LGNZ and the theme which runs through all of the lofty rhetoric is to recognise and support local body democracy. In that brief summary the word democracy is mentioned six times it is therefore crucial to the purpose for which LGNZ exists. The question then is what is a democracy. There is no better definition than that offered by Abraham Lincoln and vigorously supported by Winston Churchill throughout his long political career: “Government of the people by the people for the people.” There is nothing new in this idea of government of a society dating as it does to the ancient Greeks. For an impeccable exposition of what democracy means and the threats it currently faces one cannot improve on the recent talk given by Professor Elizabeth Rata to the ACT Party Annual Conference. One would have thought this to be compulsory listening by all those responsible for implementing the aims and objects of LGNZ. I wonder how many of them have taken the time out of their busy schedules to do so.
Democracy has proved down the years to be the only form of government which maximises both wealth and human happiness. It was the system of Local body government in New Zealand until 2022 when this Government casually swept it aside by legislating for appointments to Councils based on race and continues the trend by legislating for tribalism to replace democracy at the Canterbury Regional Council and Rotorua Lakes District Council.
It is against that simple but crucial concept that the activities of LGNZ in relation to Three Waters must be measured. It is difficult to know what will be the final form of the currently named “three waters” because it is before a Parliamentary Select Committee, but some essential ingredients of the proposed legislation are clear. The Government using its majority will:
- Confiscate the physical assets of all local authorities which currently provide for the supply of fresh water and disposal of storm water and sewerage. These assets are worth billions. The paltry sum offered as “compensation” is an insult to the intelligence of the ratepayers who own these assets.
- In place of Council ownership and control it is proposed to erect a bureaucracy which currently has five layers. At each level unelected Māori tribes and subtribes are given a controlling say in the management and control of these community services. Quite why this racial separatism is thought necessary to conduct the business of the provision of fresh water, and disposal of storm water and sewerage which hitherto has been the province of suitably qualified civil engineers and managed by Council staff is not explained and rarely referred to by those promoting the scheme.
- Vest overall control of these services in Māori tribes which in many cases geographically and socially have no connection with the districts requiring the services. Thus, for example because of the long-standing enmity between Marlborough Iwi and Ngai Tahu control of Marlborough’s freshwater provision and disposal of stormwater and sewerage will become located in the Gisborne district.
- Ensure that Māori “Treaty rights” are taken into account and given effect to at all levels of the administration of the scheme. These “rights” are nowhere defined in the proposed legislation neither is there any guidance as to how they may affect the provision and management of the services.
It is plain beyond debate that the proposed scheme which gives control over crucial community services to unelected racially defined entities is profoundly undemocratic and in confiscating private property flies in the face of long-standing common-law rights. This expropriation is concealed behind a smokescreen in which Mahuta asserts that the assets in question will however remain the property of the Councils. As to this barefaced canard The taxpayers Union has a legal opinion which inter alia states:
“Ministers appear to have cold bloodedly decided to confuse Councils and ratepayers with false statements calculated to deceive Parliament and when it becomes law to deceive New Zealanders generally.”
LGNZ has signed up to this staggering corruption of the Parliamentary process. To their enduring credit most of the constituent councils have not and the three waters scheme continues to be opposed by a majority of them. That being the case it should have been axiomatic that LGNZ which exists solely to advance the interests of its member councils would have resisted such blatant falsehoods and disregard of the rights of its member councils and their constituents. No so. In a submission on the 3 Waters legislation LGNZ is on record as saying “LGNZ supports the governments objectives and the broad reform program, but we continue to point out areas where the Governments model could be improved.” Not be it noted that as it is contrary to the wishes of the majority of its members and founded on falsehoods it should be rejected out of hand.
Against this background LGNZ’s predilection for all things Maori is captured by its stated concern that “only 13.5% of Mayors Councillors and other elected members are Maori” The fact that this almost exactly in line with the percentage of New Zealanders who identify as having some Maori genes does not appear to have occurred to those who manage LGNZ. To the contrary they say more Maori members will bring to the Councils “knowledge of iwi and Hapu stories networks and connections, (sic that) existing models of co – design (whatever that is) and co – governance draw from.” None of which has anything to do with the engineering requirements of the delivery of the three waters services.
There will of course be many New Zealanders having Maori genes who must look askance at this assault on democracy and the Rule of Law – citizens who by virtue of marriage into modern New Zealand society and their exposure over a prolonged period to what by any standards is an advance way of life. These citizens can and do make an important contribution to the three highly technical engineering areas. Anecdotal evidence is that they are left wondering what a few maori genes can contribute to the efficiency of these specialist area other than their own hard work and contributions. Such citizens accept their integration into New Zealand society and welcome it as it is and not as it was pre-1840.
Given that this should be blindingly obvious to any thinking person whose only agenda is said to be the betterment of New Zealand society and the advancement of democracy at the local body level it is difficult to understand why LGNZ has embarked on a course which is destructive of democracy on so many fronts including their rather pathetic instructions to voters how to cast their votes at the forthcoming local body elections in order to avoid hurting the feelings of minorities.
Given that the three waters proposals involve the greatest government theft of private property and destruction of local body democracy in our history all of which is contrary to its aims and objects what can explain LGNZ’s supine support for the three waters scheme. Can it be that this body which has become the beneficiary of a massive increase in taxpayer funding on the model of the Media hand out that this public largess has strings attached. (one does not bite the hand that feeds you.)
For whatever the reason LGNZ is aiding and abetting a government controlled by an ethnic caucus minority which is embarked on a course intended to wrongfully appropriate private property and to replace our democracy with tribal governance on the He Pua Pua model with unknown but certainly malign consequences. It beggars’ belief that those who are promoting this massive societal change do so believing that democracy will survive albeit in some form vaguely based on the Treaty of Waitangi which is the Coffey canard in promoting the Rotorua Lakes Council Bill; nothing to see here we are just giving democracy a “tweak.”
The more likely explanation is that LGNZ has become an integral part of the government’s strategy to promote what it believes is a necessary implementation of He Pua Pua and the so called “partnership” principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – notwithstanding that they are a factual and jurisprudential nonsense. If this so, then LGNZ should stop its media spin and make a clean breast of it to its members and the public. No wonder constituent councils are looking to leave its embrace and that there is unprecedented opposition to the three waters legislation. The Government and LGNZ have forgotten the old saw that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.