Mike Yardley writes:
The overwhelming rejection of the Three Waters reform model, by councils across the country, has dealt a major blow to the Government’s grand designs.
The radical proposal for all council water assets and services to be hoovered up by four mega-regional entities, with a multi-layered co-governance and operational board structure, has demonstrably failed to gather any semblance of a mandate.
But one of the biggest casualties from this beleaguered model could well be the body that purports to represent the interests of territorial councils – Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).
How could a representative body with a core role of advocating for the interests of its member councils and the power of local representation trample all over its central purpose, in such breath-taking fashion?
There is profound dismay that LGNZ blithely signed a heads of agreement with the Government, in July, in exchange for a $2.5 billion cash support package to sweeten the sell to councils. Signing that agreement without the engagement or consent of its member councils was a flagrant breach of good faith.
The Timaru District Council has formally led the backlash, with last week’s unanimous vote to immediately withdraw from LGNZ and demand its annual $55,000 membership fees be returned.
It does seem that LGNZ have got this one wrong. Instead of communicating the position of the Councils to Government, they agreed to communicate the position of Government to Councils. No wonder many Councils are mad.
I don’t personally think withdrawal is the right answer. The better solution is to elect different officers at the next round of elections – ones that will ensure LGNZ sees it job as keeping Councils happy, not the Government.