PM claims control doesn’t matter

Kate MacNamara writes:

The control of assets is just as important as ownership, and control and ownership don’t always amount to the same thing. Most Kiwis understand this. Strangely enough, though, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sat down with TVNZ’s Jack Tame this month and argued just the opposite.

Ownership without control is just a nine letter word rather than actual ownership.

The PM took a few twists and turns in her response. Tame was being “overly simplistic” she said: “… I’m arguing it’s simplistic because the ownership of these entities sits with local bodies and government. So it is not changing the ownership structures.”

Tame countered: “It’s not changing ownership but it is changing the representation, that’s an important distinction.”

Ardern insisted: “Well actually, local government maintain the ownership. They’re the ones with the public share … and with these regional representative boards, yes we have mana whenua represented and local government represented. But the ownership rights continue to sit with local government and with those local councils.”

Her final word on the matter was: “The reason I am coming back to ownership is because for most people power sits with ownership.

But the point is with three waters the owners won’t have the normal powers of ownership. The power will be with the regional groups.

Control matters: controlling parties will set the prices charged for the use of water assets (possibly subject to a regulated cap); they will decide how those charges are levied – by volume/use perhaps, or maybe by property value if that’s how they judge fairness; and they will almost undoubtedly decide that the cost of improving water assets in some regions will be met by ratepayers in other areas, so those who have already paid for adequate infrastructure will pay again for assets in areas which have underinvested.

If the Prime Minister thinks control is immaterial, she should try giving it up.

If only.

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