On June 30th, 2021, the Government of New Zealand announced the ‘Three Waters Reform’- which requires regulations on the supply of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater in New Zealand.
The new proposal received mixed responses from politicians from different political parties.
In a press release on their website, the Green Party spokesperson for ‘Three Waters’ Eugenie Sage, highlighted that Greens welcome the work being done to prevent possible privatization of the water infrastructure.
Moreover, Greens stressed the importance of public ownership and Māori -The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand– communities involvement in the case of these three water regulations. They stated “Access to clean water is a basic human right and a public good. Water infrastructure must remain publicly owned and its governance must be representative of local communities and mana whenua”.
Three Waters Reform
According to Radio New Zealand, the Three Water proposal grants water management to four big regional water entities run by boards appointed. This includes input from councils and with expertise in water infrastructure with treaty partnership on oversight.
In the video, minister Mahuta stated the areas the entities “were chosen based on scale and population size – not necessarily geography.”
According to Stuff News, water entities will not be privatized in the future. Councils will continue to own the entities, yet the public ownership dynamics will be different since the councils will not have a financial recognition of ownership.
That being said, the biggest debate around the proposal is whether the government should mandate all councils to join the reforms or should remain on a voluntary basis.
Green Party’s Stance
In the debate, Greens advocate for the mandated structure of the proposal. According to RNZ, Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, displayed Greens’ advocacy by stating that “There is a risk with the opt-out model that you end up with entities that have holes in them and then you start to lose the benefits of scale and of combining them, and so I think that there are some merits to simply the government going with that mandated structure.”
On June 30th, 2021, Shaw responded to Eugenie Sage’s comments regarding public ownership and Māori involvement in the Three Water Reforms. He said “Public ownership & meaningful Iwi/Māori involvement must be a core part of the plan announced today to create new three water providers. These providers will have responsibility for NZ’s drinking water, wastewater, & stormwater infrastructure”