Christmas Update

December 20, 2022

Merry Christmas to all our supporters!

This time last year, we had just filed our case in the High Court and we had not yet seen the Three Waters legislation. Despite significant opposition, the Government has pushed through on their costly, bureaucratic and undemocratic law.

There was victory on the removal of the entrenchment provisions but we remain concerned about what is still in there.

But it seems still to have gone unnoticed in Parliament that Schedule 4 also sets a fine of up to $20k for anyone who dares to publish (ultra wide definition, pretty much any communication not face to face) advertising supporting or opposing a proposal for “a divestment proposal” involving water infrastructure assets, unless the “advertiser states their “true name and contact details”.

Our submission in July said:

Disdain for Freedom of Speech

  1. Schedule 4 of the Bill sets out the process for how a poll must be conducted should an entity wish to sell any water services assets to a private entity. Part 3 sets out how advertising of the poll must occur.
  2. The Government has stated that protection against privatisation is a key aspect of this scheme. However, clause 11(1) prevents a local authority, affected by a privatisation proposal from spending any ratepayer money or resources to oppose such a proposal. Local authorities are elected by their constituents to advocate on their behalf so if their constituents oppose the proposal, is there not a role for local authorities as “co-owners” to express this?
  3. Clause 13 of the Bill requires that any person advertising about the poll must put on the publication their full name and home address. The very requirement that the Government voted to remove, under urgency, last month from local election advertising as it was seen as creating an unsafe environment for potential candidates and a possible chill on democratic participation.

The Select Committee changed the Bill to drop the requirement for a home address. An email or phone number will do. But nothing else was changed.

And there is new legislation -

Just as the Government got their (revised) Three Waters bill through Parliament, they sneakily introduced two more. This was not unexpected  - the Water Services Entities Act 2022 doesn't deal with how ownership will actually be transferred from ratepayers nor the economic regulator they proposed. What was not expected was the complexity of these changes - the Amendment bill is over 200 pages!

So what does that mean for our case?

The Court of Appeal has granted us a hearing date for the appeal about discovery. Remember, after all this time the Government has still not explained why co-governance was legally required. The Deputy Prime Minister, Grant Robertson, still makes states publicly that without co-governance they would have faced numerous Treaty claims.

The fight on three waters is not over - our case has the potential to set new ground, the additional changes to Three Waters they are trying to push through need significant scrutiny and 2023 is an election year.

We'll be in touch early in the year, seeking from you what the key issues are. In the meantime, please enjoy a great Christmas with your family.

Thanks for your ongoing support.

Chris Milne

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