Joyce on Three Waters

Steven Joyce writes:

Then there is the great centralisation. Regional people have watched suspiciously as Wellington takes away their ability to run their local polytech or hospital on the grounds that Wellington knows better, with the unspoken corollary that locals aren’t up to it. Woe betide the first bureaucrat who centralises services away from New Plymouth or Whangārei in the name of efficiency.

Regional businesses fear national pay agreements making it harder to run a niche exporter from places like Gisborne and Invercargill – where such businesses are celebrated and all too thin on the ground. And regional people are sick of hearing about vanity projects in Auckland and Wellington with ridiculous price tags, like bike bridges and light rail.

Yep if there is one thing this Government stands for, it is centralising power in Wellington.

The people are resourceful, direct and get on with getting things done. They don’t stand on ceremony and everyone has to rub along. Regional people are sceptical of Wellington and decisions made there. It’s never hard to find someone ready to tell you about the “shiny-arses” in the capital and how divorced from reality they are.

Wellington is to New Zealand what Austin is to Texas. On almost every issue I poll on, the average response from Wellington is vastly different to everywhere else.

Which brings us back to Three Waters. It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that running Hawke’s Bay’s water facilities from Wellington will likely make the needs of Napier and Hastings people secondary to the much publicised water woes of Wellingtonians.

And how much time do you think the good people of Auckland’s water services body will spend thinking about the water issues of Northland?

Somewhere between zero and very little.

Finally, there is the accountability issue. Few in the regions are under any illusion that the convoluted spaghetti of governance arrangements has been set up to suit Labour’s Māori caucus and pretty much no-one else.

Good luck working out who to call if your “water service entity” fails to fix a sewer pipe, or a stormwater drain causes a pothole in the road outside your gate. In past times you’d ring the mayor and get it fixed. Now you’ll be given an 0800 number and no way of voting the bastards out.

This is the key. These reforms will make it impossible for people who fund three waters (through compulsory rates) to vote out those in charge if they do a terrible job.

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