Three Waters is more than co-governance

Much of the focus around Three Waters has been the co-governance of the regional entities that effectively will appoint the boards of the four proposed water companies. But Graham Adams reports there is more to it than that:

According to Cranmer’s analysis, a direct and unbreakable chain of command flows from the Māori Advisory Group via Taumata Arowai to control the four new Water Services Entities (WSEs).

The WSEs control the day-to-day management of the operations of Three Waters. We have been repeatedly told they will be completely independent, working at arm’s length from the higher echelons of the complicated water bureaucracy.

However, it is made clear in legislation that the water regulator Taumata Arowai has to jump when the Māori Advisory Group says jump. When it — and Tipa as chairperson — speaks, Taumata Arowai has a statutory obligation to listen and act on that advice.

And the clincher is that Taumata Arowai directly regulates the Water Services Entities. In short, if Tipa Mahuta chooses, she can — as chair of the Māori Advisory Group — call the shots throughout each level of water management.

So the Minister’s sister is appointed to chair a group that the industry regulator must pay heed to.

And what role or powers does the Māori Advisory Group have? It has statutory powers to advise the board of Taumata Arowai on Māori interests and, per s17(3) [of Taumata Arowai — the Water Services Regulator Act], the board must have regard for that advice and must demonstrate in its annual report how it’s had regard.

So the board of Taumata Arowai ignores Tipa at its peril. And good luck to the Water Services Entities if they don’t comply with its regulator, Taumata Arowai.

 And, anyway, if Tipa isn’t getting her way, she can always call her sister, the Minister of Local Government.

The above is a quote from Thomas Cranmer on Twitter. The statutory direction to the regulator that it must follow or have regard to the advice from he Advisory Group, and demonstrate that it has done so gives immense power to the group – chaired by the Minister’s sister.

For instance, the Water Services Entities Bill, introduced by Mahuta in early June, gives mana whenua whose territory includes “a freshwater body in the service area of a Water Services Entity” the right to provide that entity with “a Te Mana o te Wai statement for water services”.

This statement can be provided “by an individual iwi or hapū, or by a group of iwi or hapū”. It can be summarily ditched and a new statement provided at any time.

So the water companies must follow the statements prepared by Iwi, and if they don’t:

So there is no ‘co-governance’ at the operating level. [But] WSEs need to follow Te Mana o te Wai statements prepared by iwi — and the regulator charged with ensuring compliance is the minister’s sister, Tipa.

These are issues worthy of debate.

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