Three Waters is wrong for Tauranga

By: Steve Morris

Democracy HQ
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris

 The case for merging local water infrastructure into four ‘super-bureaucracies’ has been as poorly thought out as the $4 million cartoon campaign advertising it.

Contrary to the claims of the Department of Internal Affairs, their proposal for Tauranga’s Three Waters will be less efficient, cost our community more and could mean future water restrictions.

Far from having sludge-filled taps, we have the cleanest drinking water in New Zealand, thanks to heavy investment by Tauranga ratepayers. Call me sceptical, but I doubt there will be any efficiencies from a bureaucracy designed by the public service.

Even Minister Mahuta has said that not one public servant will lose their job through the amalgamation process. Instead, existing bureaucrats will report to higher-paid bureaucrats in the new water entities. But they won’t be elected, nor will they be accountable to bill payers.

The promised savings look like they’ve gone down the drain too. Top experts have slammed the DIA for overstating benefits and understating costs, saying they relied on “faulty assumptions and flawed analysis”.

The Three Waters proposal is based on the ‘Scottish Water’ model, which gives me chills. Analysis shows that the average household in Scotland pays 50 per cent more for water than a household in Tauranga using the same amount!

Not only will costs go up, but there’s a risk we won’t get the same spending on our water supply in the future. Nanaia Mahuta admitted in parliament that we will have to subsidise other towns and cities that haven’t invested as much in their infrastructure.

Mayor Brownless’ council began constructing the $200 million Waiari Water Treatment Plant to end summer water restrictions. It’s due for completion next year, but when it’s time to expand it, will the money be diverted to ‘more needy’ projects in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region instead?