Water and democracy

Every New Zealander should be worried about Rodney Hide’s latest bill on local government — which will allow our water supplies [DOC] to be controlled and managed by private companies for 35 years, and will force Councils to focus only on ill-defined ‘core business’ [DOC] (which excludes, amongst other things, the environment).’

Multinational corporations are scouring the world, looking for water supplies they can take over and run for a profit. They know that water is going to the be the oil of the 21st century — a scarce resource that wars will be fought over — and they are keen to get their hands on as much of it as possible.

Now they have New Zealand in their sights, aided and abetted by Rodney Hide and the Key government.

This Bill will allow the management of our water resources to be transferred to private corporations, and will transform the provision of water services from a public good to a source of private profit. It will also transform water from something that is essential to human life, into a commodity to be traded for profit.

Once a Council has entered into one of the 35 year public private partnerships, the driving influence on all decisions relating to water will be the return to the shareholder, not the public interest.

Many of these sorts of public private partnerships or water privatisations, have proven disastrous overseas. They have resulted in soaring profits for shareholders — and soaring price rises for consumers. Instead of upgrading infrastructure, companies use the savings to maintain and increase their dividends, so they have resulted in widespread under-investment in water infrastructure (as happened to rail when Faye Richwhite took over its running).

There has also been, typically, a sharp rise in the number of households having their water supply disconnected or cut off, which endangers the health and well being of residents.

The contracts that are negotiated with the companies are invariably ‘commercial in confidence’ so you cant work out what’s in them or what the terms of the contract are. Some contracts have a guaranteed rate of return for the private operator built into them, for example.

And what happens when the companies (many of which are private equity companies) go bankrupt? Who takes over the contract then — their bank? What happens when a company passes the contract over to another subsidiary. The company that runs the local Wellington sewage and water treatment plant has changed hands three times in the last few years.

These are just a few of the reasons why we should never allow something that is basic for human life and survival — an asset that has been built up over generations — to pass into private hands.

We need as many people as possible to make submissions against this bill. Submissions will be called for shortly and I will post a submission guide on here.

To read Sue’s speech on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, click here.

18 Comments Posted

  1. Drakula

    I believe Penny Bright, water activist, and others have organised a day of action on 12 June 2010. Enjoy!

    The connections are important. e.g. Helen Isra’s comment above about http://ecaninexile.wordpress.com

    We know the lengths big business and government will go to take over our assets and our country’s spirit. Joyce and Key telling rail coach builders they’re too stupid to build Auckland’s rail stock is one of many examples already seen and many still to come, all designed to demoralise. We cannot allow that.

    Helen Isra,
    I will be happy to support you in any way from here in Auckland south.

  2. Hi Everyone – Following the removal of our Canterbury regional councillors and our democratic regional voice some of us Cantabrians decided to do something to help empower Cantabrians to maintain their regional democracy. We have put together a website type blog called ECan in Exile. We’ve submitted it for Google indexing and would now like to get it linked into as many related high traffic sites as possible. Please have a look at our site here: http://ecaninexile.wordpress.com and if you like what we’ve done please link us from your website.

    >>In democracy it’s your vote that counts; In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

  3. I must say Greenfly there is some excellent talent in the Green party judging by your performance in Parliament, your blog and your willingness to get out and stand up for your beliefs.

    In the 2011 election I believe your party will attract more votes than ever.

    You have fought for all the right causes and not even the Nats are trying to ridicule you at present. I will make sure that the way you have fought on behalf of Kiwis will be heard, not just the Nats’ version. They have stolen my democratic rights and they did so at their political peril. Kiwis never learn about the rightwing. National does it every time they get into government.

    I’m only one person but I am quietly and calmly enraged by what this government has perpetrated for greed – the insult against our skilled railway workforce just one example.

    I’m still a Labour supporter but these privatisations of our assets have always bothered me, no matter who is in government. I admire CAFCA Mr Horten’s efforts in this regard, against foreign control. If you don’t have ownership over your communications, your transport, your defence, your water assets, your land, you aren’t in control.

    Unfortunately, it’s the pondscum in our own country that betray us – Joyce and Key and Hide.

  4. A guest on National Radio today wondering why we have a Horse Racing Minister and an Energy minister, but no Water Minister
    Good point

  5. It is as you say PM Watcher. When the issue of the 35 years for PPP’s was being debated in the House, both Jeanette and Russel (perhaps Metiria, from memory) challenged that very point and were treated with the usual *t-nosed derision from Bill English, lying through his teeth.

  6. The interesting point about water ownership – NActional continues to say Labour allowed 15 years for PPP on water, so what’s the diff. on 35 years. There is a huge difference.

    In 15 years time you still have some infrastructure that business has built and (hopefully – not like the railways) maintained and then New Zealanders actually have some benefit for letting private business take over their land, take over their infrastructure, take away their control to complain directly to council and charge NZers exorbitant fees with draconian measures such as taking houses to pay overdue water bills. The benefit is that Hide said himself that 15 years is not enough for private business to extract enough out of the infrastructure (not to mention US) whereas 35 years is.

    In conclusion 35 years allows private business to get everything from the infrastructure meaning when New Zealanders are allowed to decide again on how water infrastructure is dealt with, the infrastructure will need replacing again. We NZers will have gained nothing and lost everything.

    The 18 year old will be 53 when democracy calls once more.

    PS Labour should never have PPP’d even for 15 years and I expect them to cancel out NActional’s dealmaking with the moneyed interests on our water asset.

  7. McTap Posted May 6, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    Hope you looked further down and read about Penny Bright who is fighting well for New Zealanders’ right to own the water, not Key, Joyce, Hide, Creech/Dairy Farmers/private business.

    Once moneyed interests own the water, we will pay anything to keep it. And they will ensure we do. Just like electricity. Just like food.

    Hope everyone is intending to vote before the 14th in the Auckland ballot boxes to have a say on whether we want to stay in super city and thereby have a say in having our own water supply under our own council, not business, control. The ballot boxes are in libraries I believe, or contact Penny Bright or The Aucklander which wants all residents in or out of Auckland City to have a vote, like democracies do. What! you don’t know what democracy means. Is it too late, already, for New Zealand under the authoritarian daddy state?

  8. I don’t disagree with you, greenfly, but unless regional councils really reflect local people (and not just farmers) they are equally flawed. The EPA is supposed to base decisions on national interests, which we all know can be reiterpreted as National’s interests and as I suggested at the end of my comment, milk will probably be given a higher value than water.

    However I do see that if many of Creech’s other ideas are enacted, like metered consumption, there could be positive outcomes.

    The really big issue is a total mind shift from those who regulate and drive our economy. I was interested to hear Dr Morgan Williams on Nat Rad this morning promoting Prof Tim Jackson’s book “Prosperiety without Growth”. In the end it probably doesn’t really matter whether the EPA or a Regional Council manages our resources if the basis for that management is around supporting an economic growth model, we are doomed either way.

  9. No sprout, nooooooooo!
    Creech is pointing at National’s plans to centralise control over water – take it from the local regional councils and apply their business management model to a resource that should be ‘the people’s’, not ‘the government’s’.
    Here is the sound of the warning bells you heard,

  10. Interesting to hear Wyatt Creech on Q & A. I found myself agreeing with much of what he said:
    -Clear, national standards on water use
    -Actually meter water consumption
    -Ensure decisions are based on scientific facts and the technicalities of management are understood.
    -Overview by the Environment Commission to ensure due protection of natural resources.
    -Ensure regulations are properly enforced.
    It all made sense but I heard warning bells when he played down the extent of the degradation of rivers and claimed there were only a few stressed aquifers. He made it appear that other countries have major problems but we just have to tidy up management. The Environment Commisioner is making all the right noises at the moment but time will tell whether milk or water will be valued more in the end.


    I feel that this is a very serious situation and urgent action needs to be taken, if not we stand to lose our public equity over a basic human necessity.

    If 50,000 people can be motivated to march on Queen Street last Saturday, then why can’t 100,000 to 300,000 be motivated to take part in a national strike to paralize the nation until we get sense out of the government.

    The next election may be too late!!

    The first victims of the water war is, Cantabrians loss of a democratic right, E-can councillors, next will be E-can staff, then staff of all regional councils, then staff of local councils. And so on.

    If any members of staff or any employee is disturbed by the above scenario of water theft it is essential that you contact your union and preferably the Council of Trade Unions (CTU). I have already contacted a member there who is sympathetic to this cause.

    WARNING! To side step moles it is best to send a few blind carbon copies to friends and of course to file a copy your self for future reference.

    Best of luck!!!!

  12. Bankrupt farmers sell land to china, govt sells water – race you to the bottom while we watch a privileged few get rich quick.

  13. Sprout,
    You’ll have to ask Rodney’s mother. She singlehandedly told him to put libraries back on the list of core needs. She forgot to tell him he wasn’t allowed to step up the in-library charges on everything and existing charges increased, until people cannot afford to go.

  14. I wonder who gives the advice when rodney visits his investment advisor. This mess is going to cost NZ a fortune.

  15. This govt has a fixation on removing democracy to enable the water thieves a free run. First the ECan debacle, now a crack at water services in general.
    And both have those Hideous grubby little paw prints all over it.

    P.S. I opened my rates bill from the Christchurch City Council yesterday and a bright orange coloured leaflet fell out.

    Titled “Your Vote Your Community”, with a slogan of “wherever you pay rates it pays to vote”, this adds insult to injury to Cantabrians.

    Not only have we had our right to vote for our regional council stolen, thus making us second class citizens in our own country, this leaflet now reminds us that the rest of the country have more rights than we do.

    Like many Cantabrians I’d like to vote for my regional council this October, but the National government has passed legislation to prevent this.

Comments are closed.