12 Feb 2024

Mixed reaction to Three Waters repeal by end of next week

10:27 pm on 12 February 2024
Andrew Tripe

Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe has celebrated the scrapping of Three Waters. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

There has been a mixed response to the government's announcement that Three Waters will be no more by the end of next week.

The government announced the scrapping of the law today, and that an advisory group will be set up ahead of passing two replacement pieces of legislation.

The repeal will disestablish the water entities, keeping water assets in councils' hands.

In a statement, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said the repeal of Labour's Three Waters legislation would "restore continued local council ownership and control of water services, and responsibility for service delivery".

ACT infrastructure and local government spokesman Cameron Luxton said the announcement was "symbolic" of a broader change in direction, away from centralisation and back toward "empowering local communities".

"We all know status quo isn't up to scratch, but Labour's bureaucratic, co-governed regime was never the answer," he said.

"Three Waters would have been great for middle-managers but a disaster for water users, with layers and layers of bureaucracy separating decision makers from the people."

'Great' to see legislation repealed - Whanganui mayor

The news was celebrated by the Whanganui mayor Andrew Tripe and Auckland mayor Wayne Brown.

Tripe said it was "great" to see the legislation being repealed.

He had pushed hard to fight against Three Waters due to concerns about losing control of and not being able to make decisions about the region's water assets.

Work has been ongoing for an alternative option to Three Waters, he said.

Wayne Brown congratulated Brown for getting the work underway and said it was "very much in line with what we asked for".

He said the critical step was to get a replacement in place as soon as possible to avoid big water price increases.

"I'm working constructively with the government on that, and initial discussions are promising," he said.

But Labour has blasted National, saying it was "irresponsible" of them to "ignore the problem".

Its local government spokesperson Kieran McAnulty said New Zealanders would pay higher rates, "up to 90 percent in some individual councils" in 30 years for water infrastructure.

"The cost of fixing our broken water infrastructure is estimated at $185 billion over just three decades," he said.

"Instead of helping councils deal with water infrastructure, [National is] kicking it back on residents and homeowners and washing their hands of a problem that needs a long-term solution.

"Councils can't do this by themselves, but this is exactly where the government has left them - without any support."

McAnulty said the current law would have saved households thousands each year and at a time where families were already feeling the pressure with the cost of living, this was going to be "a kick in the guts".

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