20 Jul 2022

Ardern on three waters reform: 'The status quo is untenable'

7:22 pm on 20 July 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is keen "to see central and local government partner together on everything".

Watch the briefing here:

Ardern spoke to media from the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference in Palmerston North.

Ardern said she was keen "to continue to see central and local government partner together on everything from the three waters reform programme, the resources management issues that we are working through to ensure that we have the housing and infrastructure we need for the future, and of course the incredibly difficult issue of climate resilience adaptation and mitigation".

"There is common ground, one area where we absolutely all agree except potentially bar the opposition, is that the status quo is untenable," she said of the three waters reform.

Ardern said the status quo was not an option because it could mean ratepayers being faced with bills of up to $9000 per household.

"The vast majority of local government accepts that, and it then becomes a debate of what you do about it," Ardern said.

Ardern said instead of choosing to ignore the problem "we're choosing to act, and I know many members of local government support that".

Associate Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty had met with 21 councils out of 55 and said whether they agreed with the water reforms or not there was a demand on their staff.

"We need to spend money to save money, and so we're putting money into councils to give them the resources that they need to do this transition," McNulty said.

While advice on the number of entities had been quite clear, local government had raised some issues regarding governance which had been implemented, Ardern said.

On Covid-19 measures

Ardern acknowledged businesses experiencing staff shortages. The payment for staff who had to isolate due to Covid-19 continued, she said.

There were no plans to move into red light setting, she said, because "we know that measures we already have in place make a difference".

She said the government was hearing from experts that reducing Covid isolation periods made a difference but "now is not the time to reduce isolation times".

As for the photo of Ardern with nearly 120 Youth MPs, where all were maskless, she said: "I from time to time actually do get asked to take my mask off for photos and in the future I will be more vigilant about politely declining."

The LGNZ conference, Te Wa Heke Mai: the Future, would connect over 600 of the sector's leaders and representatives, amid a once-in-a-generation reform facing the sector, LGNZ president Stuart Crosby said in a statement.

Ardern is expected to address the conference at 4.30pm today.

Other speakers at the conference will include elected members from both local and central government, strategists, innovators and iwi, Crosby said.

A survey released yesterday revealed that almost half of city and district councillors have experienced racism, gender discrimination or other forms of harassment.

LGNZ chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said she was concerned about some of the behaviour and rhetoric in the early stages in this year's local body election, but pleased that the government had recently removed the requirement for residential addresses to be published on campaign advertising.

Local body elections are being held on 8 October this year with nominations for elected members closing on 12 August.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs