Water Privatisation Warning

PSA Warns Kapiti Residents Not

To Be Hoodwinked Over Water

By Alan Tristram
August 11, 2010

Fears over the future privatisation of Kapiti’s water have brought a warning to local people from Brenda Pilott, National Secretary of the Public Service Association.

In a special article for KIN, Ms Pilott says:

Water is one of our most precious resources and this is especially so for people living in areas where it is in short supply. The Kapiti Coast is one such region where decades of growth have placed enormous strain on reserves.

Later this month, following extensive investigations and consultation with local communities, Kapiti Coast District Council will decide on long-term water supply solutions for the region

Consultation under the 2002 Local Govt. Ac

This extensive consultation reflects the 2002 Local Government Act’s ground-breaking call for unprecedented engagement between councils and their constituents in its requirement on councils to consider community, economic, cultural and social well-being in their decision-making and consultation processes.

Even before the Act came into being, dialogue between local bodies and their communities was an important part of how decisions were made and needs and priorities determined.

‘Hide regards consultation as unnecessary’
By contrast, Rodney Hide’s Local Government Amendment Bill regards such connection between councils and communities as “unnecessary consultation” — this from a bill that is promoted as an attempt to improve transparency and accountability in local government.

Compounding this is a stated aim in the bill to “level the playing field to better enable the private sector to deliver local authority services” and proposes that councils contract out water services for 35 years.

Supporters of the amendment bill say this will simply allow councils more flexibility on how they manage water services.

‘Don’t be Hoodwinked’

It is important not to be hoodwinked by such beguiling assertions. A 35-year contract is effectively privatisation. It is time enough and more for local authorities to lose the necessary skills and resources to reclaim services.

Private water companies are in business to make profits and nothing feeds profits more than when demand outstrips supply. This is an important consideration when it comes to a vital resource like water.

Overseas experience shows that privatising water can bring about increased costs to consumers, a deterioration of wages and conditions for employees and a lack of accountability on the part of water companies.

Water is a human right and its supply should not be driven by profit. For this reason it is imperative that local communities retain control and ownership of their water services as well as their right to participate in local government decision making.

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