Water Privatisation Flagged

Opposition Says Government

Aiding Water Privatisation

5th May, 2010
By Alan Tristram

Labour and the Greens say the Government has opened the floodgates to water privatisation by changes it’s made to the Local Government Act

The move confirms the worst fears of Kapiti groups who’ve been campaigning against water meters on the grounds they could smooth the way to privatisation.

It also means that in future Councils which are under financial pressure — and who don’t want to raise the rates to pay for water projects — may be tempted to join forces with commercial companies to provide water services.

Consumers could pay in water charges

This could leave consumers paying through their taps to give water companies monopoly profits.

Parliament last night passed the Local Government Amendment Act 2002 Amendment Bill through its first reading.

The legislation provides for councils to contract water services to private companies for up to 35 years — up from the current maximum of 15 years.

Labour MP Phil Twyford says this is privatisation.

“This bill allows private ownership of New Zealand’s water infrastructure for periods of up to 35 years’ that is privatisation,” he says.

“If it’s not privatisation … I want to know how long these contracts would have to be before this Government considered them to be privatisation,” he said,

“A source of private profit.” says Sue Kedgley

Green MP Sue Kedgley says the Bill transforms water services from public good to “a source of private profit”.

But Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says the Opposition is wrong in claiming that the legislation allowing contracted out water services amounts to privatisation.

Mr Hide says councils can already enter into public/private partnerships for 15 years, but that is not long enough for the economic life of the water assets.

“We don’t know whether councils will take up that opportunity,” he says.

“John Key’s ruled out privatisation,” says Mr Hide,” what my concern is  to get much better performance in our local government and, indeed, to get the necessary investment that we need in infrastructure.

“Just like they can get a contractor in to mow the lawns, they can get a contractor in to help with the water.”

John is absolutely right. If we’d gone down the track advocated by some councillors – to rely on water meters to “solve” our water problems, we’d now be ripe for privatisation. Fortunately some of us rejected this option and we now have a council commitment to a collection and storage solution and financial incentives for households investing in water-saving devices. The KCDC vote on the collection and storage option is in June and the money is allocated. Interestingly Kapiti residetns have reduced water usage by over 16% in the past 12 months. This is clearly because at last we have had an education campaign. Our community wants to save water, when they understand why and how!

Lyndy McIntyre

This Bill is blatantly preparing for future privatization – so where are our local MPs and their reports on this proposed legislatiion? As Members, responsible to us their electorte in watching
over our declared interests, let them tell how they voted and why.
And what is our Council’s response – especially those Councillors who made water their electoral platform – to this threatening move by our Government?

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