Hon CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: I move,
That the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill be now read a second time. It has been my privilege as the member of Parliament for Whanganui to sponsor this bill, a local bill from the South Taranaki District Council, to vest with Cold Creek Community Water Supply the water-race scheme that the members of that community built for themselves back in the mid-1980s, according to an incentive scheme that was provided by the Government in those times as a dollar for dollar subsidy, building water-race schemes, with the proviso that they increase productivity. The local farmers got together and put together a water-race scheme, built on the Cold Creek water catchment, and built that scheme, and so lifted the productivity of farms in that area, but provided fresh and clean water for the consumers, both animal and human, within that catchment.
I want to thank the members of the Local Government and Environment Committee, who have considered this bill. I want to acknowledge the chairmanship of Nicky Wagner, and all the parties who conducted themselves really well, and in a good debating sort of a manner, over the course of the consideration of the bill. I recognise that the bill has—and I am grateful for—the support of the bulk of the Parliament. The Labour Party, New Zealand First, United Future, ACT, and the National Party have indicated support for the bill. Those dissenting have been the Green Party, the Māori Party, and the Mana party. I want to acknowledge too that the dissenting votes that they will cast are really based on philosophy. The fact is that in respect of the Māori Party, for instance, the Māori Party members have consulted with local iwi as to which way they would want them to vote in respect of this matter. Iwi have asked that they not vote for it. Iwi have said that they do not see themselves, in respect of local tangata whenua, to be in a position where they would be consulted by the district council on this. They are upset as they do not feel that they have been consulted in the way that they should have, but see themselves as Treaty partners and so should be exercising some governance over the allocation of water at regional council level or at central government level.
In respect of the Green Party, the Green Party has said that it believes that the water-race scheme should be retained within community ownership. It has been my contention to their member responsible for this bill, Eugenie Sage, that in fact this is the lowest level of community ownership that you can have. It is owned by the people who built the scheme. It is owned by the people who use the scheme. In the end, we end up in a situation where the Green Party believes it should really be held by the territorial local authority. I suggested to Eugenie, a little tongue-in-cheek, that if it was a kibbutz she would vote for it. She said: “Yeah, but it’s not a kibbutz.” I actually said that it is a collection of farmers working together for the common good, using a natural resource, which is pretty much a kibbutz in my language. However, I do not profess to be an authority on that. As far as the honourable member Hone Harawira goes, I think he would just be against it because he is against most things, but there we go.
I wanted to acknowledge the philosophical differences. In any event I believe that the Local Government and Environment Committee worked in good spirits, across parties, to be able to ensure that the transition of the bill went smoothly and all issues were raised.
Consultation, as I have indicated, was an issue for iwi. The council felt that it had consulted with iwi. It has an iwi liaison group, representative of local iwi, and in raising
it time after time over many years, and also giving the issue publicity through the newspaper and running the community notification, the council felt that it had consulted. It had consulted with iwi by going through its iwi liaison committee with, as I say, all iwi represented. Iwi felt that they should have been consulted and approached, iwi by iwi. To try to give some rectification to that, Cold Creek Community Water Supply actually held a hui at the Tāriki hall. I was present and chaired the meeting. We did have a discussion with iwi about this. They ended up at a place where they did not see that they could instruct the Māori Party that they were happy or comfortable for them to be able to vote in that way.
Then, to cover off who should own a water scheme, as I said the origin of this scheme was that it was a dollar for dollar subsidy—dollar for dollar with the taxpayers and the local farmers. No ratepayer money went into it. How the South Taranaki District Council got to be the owners of this scheme was really that at the time a number of the farmers who were part of the construction of this scheme were on the Egmont County Council. They saw that as a viable place for the Government to put its money, so it would be used according to the scheme. The Government required somebody—you know, with hindsight they could have used the local iwi, or they could have used Kiwi Cooperative Dairies at the time, which went on to become Fonterra, but because they had members on that council they decided they would vest it with that council. Then with local government amalgamation in 1989 it came into the South Taranaki District Council list of assets.
I have said who has paid for it. They were the farmers and the taxpayers of New Zealand. The taxpayers’ investment was to be based on productivity gained by the implementation of the scheme, and the taxpayers have had their dollars back many, many times over. So since the mid to late 1990s the Cold Creek water-race scheme members have been administering the scheme and acting as the owners of the scheme. Members of Parliament may well say, well, why change that? If it is being run by them now, they are keeping the profits of it, these are put back into the scheme, and it is costing the council nothing, why is it so important for those people to be able to have their names on the title or to own the scheme?
The reason is simple, and it is totally around the human condition, and that is that at the time this was built, rates for borrowing money were exorbitant. Those of us who were trying to buy houses or farms or whatever in those days will remember those days when the interest rate was 18 percent per annum and the penalty rates were 22 percent and 24 percent. Struggling young farmers who were doing their best to build up a business, like the honourable member Shane Ardern and his brother, were borrowing money on those rates and yet they had to put in, I believe, $67,000 in respect of their farm to build this water-race scheme.
So having gone through that process and having sweated blood for a scheme that many other people are benefiting from right now, they want to own it. I can see that as being a perfectly reasonable place for them to be in, bearing in mind that there is no real right of ownership on the constituency of the South Taranaki District Council.
There were questions around health issues because a clause of the bill had given the South Taranaki District Council an indemnity in respect of public health issues, and the Ministry of Health made it quite plain that they cannot opt out of that. They cannot be given an enduring indemnity in respect of public health issues, because they will continue in the way that they do for other district councils over the catchment of the whole of their constituency. The fact is, though, that they will not bear a responsibility for matters that rest with the Cold Creek company: the provision of clean water, access to water, and those sorts of things.
The council will have the responsibility to make sure that there is monitoring in respect of the quality of that water, and, if they are found wanting, they will lead the prosecution in respect of that. If someone sets up a business drawing water from Cold Creek and they were requiring public health notifications and monitoring, these would still rest with the council, albeit the day-to-day responsibility of providing clean and potable water through the scheme still stays with the owners of the scheme.
I want to finish off now just by thanking again members on the Local Government and Environment Committee for the work that they did, and congratulating the members of the Cold Creek water-race scheme company on the work that they have done over about 12 or 13 years now to reach this time. They are very pleased to know that within the next few members’ days they will have vested back with them this asset that they worked bloody hard to achieve for their community. Thank you.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai)
: Labour will support this bill, the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill, right through to its final reading. When it was introduced into this House, at that time we said we would support it going to the Local Government and Environment Committee, but we wanted to hear the evidence, and we wanted to hear what the community had to say, what the local authority had to say, and what iwi had to say on this bill. That is because there were some concerns. There were concerns particularly around overriding the Local Government Act. There were concerns around the way that the whole thing had been managed and fears that a lot of these decisions had been made behind closed doors. I know that my colleague Andrew Little will go into this a little more and will raise some of those concerns that he has heard up there in the Taranaki area. But, at the end of the day, when we looked at the bill in its entirety, how it emerged, what it is to do, and the safeguards that have been put in it, then we believed that we ought to support it.
There were lots of concerns, however, over iwi consultation. I think that this was not handled very well at all. I think that we need to say to both those who will own this scheme and the council itself that they need to improve their consultation. They need to start earlier. They need to be talking to and involving people in the area. Perhaps through lack of practice they did not achieve a good level of consultation.
The other concern was whether this was privatisation of an asset, an asset that had been built up with a dollar-for-dollar subsidy from the Government—not from ratepayers but from the Government. You could argue that this is a type of privatisation because it goes into the hands of those who manage it and use this scheme, but you could also apply that argument to those who are given a subsidy to build community houses but still provide that service. You would not say that we had privatised their housing. In terms of this particular scheme, they have put up money, they have managed it, they have been the ones who have used it, and they are the ones who occupy the land on which the water is used. So we believe that we ought to support this bill at this stage.
It has had a long history, this particular scheme, going back over a decade. The South Taranaki District Council has been wanting to divest the scheme to the users as far back as the late 1990s. In fact it did a lot of work when we were in Government towards the divestment of this scheme. Unfortunately, it stalled in about 2006, but the company that has got it now has been managing the scheme since 2001.
One of the issues that we raised was around the use of the water out of the scheme for the people of Ōhākune, because there are particular times of the year when the people—
Andrew Little: Ōpunake.
Hon ANNETTE KING: Ōpunake, sorry. There are times of the year when the people of Ōpunake actually need access to this water scheme. One of the things that we were assured by the council and by the company was that they have agreed to continue
the current arrangement for this scheme to supplement the Ōpunake water supply in an emergency. That was when it was used. So that was something that we were very clear that we needed to have tied down: that the people there would have access to the water.
As I said, we will support it. It has been a long time in the making. It has not been a particularly good process, but I do commend Chester Borrows for bringing it to the House, as a good local member would.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson)
: I am delighted to be making a contribution on the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill, and I want to begin by complimenting the work of Chester Borrows, the member for Whanganui, who has not just championed this bill but been such an effective advocate for a very large electorate.
Andrew Williams: This is the self-admiration club again.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, he is such an effective member. I would love to compare how many votes Chester Borrows got in Whanganui with how many votes Andrew Williams got. Could Maggie Barry remind me?
Maggie Barry: He was the fifth-lowest polling candidate.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: He was the fifth-lowest polling candidate in North Shore, as compared with the sponsor of this bill, who, I am not surprised, got not just 1,000 votes more than Andrew Williams got, not 10,000 votes—
Andrew Williams: What’s that got to do with it?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member interjects with “What’s that got to do with it?”. Well, it has actually got quite a lot to do with it. It is to do with your mandate to speak for your communities. Chester Borrows has a very strong mandate to talk for his Whanganui electorate because not only is he a damned good Minister, he is actually an excellent advocate for that very large electorate. What this bill shows is that Chester Borrows is not just being an effective advocate for the city of Wanganui, but actually goes the hard yards for those smaller rural communities that are part of his electorate and the community that is going to benefit from this bill. You see, this bill oozes common sense—oozes common sense—and I think every member of this House would know that if there is a member who champions common sense, it is Chester Borrows and what is in this bill.
What this bill enables is 162 members of the Cold Creek community water supply scheme to be able to run their water scheme as a cooperative. Who in this House would oppose a bunch of 162 property owners who want to get on and run their own water supply? In my own electorate, I have got lots of these water supply schemes, and they are run very effectively because—
Andrew Little: Because more than half of it was paid for by the taxpayer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Andrew Little, who has interjected a number of times, is ideologically opposed to New Zealanders doing stuff for themselves. He hates it. He wants people to be dependent. He cannot stand the idea that people might be able to do things for themselves and have a water scheme that provides their community with a good supply of water that is run by their own community.
What is interesting is that on this bill, and on so many other things, there is an ideological split within the Labour Party. You see, you have Annette King, who made a very sensible contribution. She said in a very pragmatic, common-sense way that if the people of this community want to run their own water scheme, that is a good thing, and, providing there are proper checks in the bill, she is prepared to support it. On the other hand, you have got Andrew Little representing the hard left of the Labour Party, which hates people doing things for themselves. He indicates by his interjections that he is opposed to this bill, and all members on this side of the House say “Here we go again.
The Labour Party is all over the place, as it has been all this year, not able to resolve the ideological rifts within the Labour Party, and we have no idea where it stands.”
What we do have, though, is concerning opposition from the Green Party to this bill, and I am not surprised by that. You see, the Green Party is opposed to any bill that represents pragmatic common sense. It will always find a reason to get in the way of New Zealanders being able to do their own things. It is interesting in respect of what I call the ideological ratchet, which the Labour Party and the Green Party members so often operate. If a council wants to buy a water scheme, they say that is good and it should be allowed to do that. But if ever a council wants to divest a water scheme, they say you cannot do that.
Hon Chris Tremain: Asset sales.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That is right. My colleague from Napier says that you then get into an ideological rant around asset sales. Well, actually, this is. This is one where a community has said “Hey, we have got a water scheme.” The people who run it and use it on daily basis would like to run it for themselves. The local council says it thinks that is a good idea. We have even put a protection in Chester Borrows’ bill that requires there to be a referendum amongst the local people—the only people who are affected by this bill—to have their say. And now Andrew Little and Eugenie Sage say they are going to stop and oppose communities making that decision for themselves. The arrogance of those members! And do you know what it really illustrates? It illustrates the huge risk to common sense if this country ever faces a Labour-Green Government, because every member on this side of the House knows that the ideological hard left idealism of the Labour Party is always going to trump and is going to get in the way of communities like Cold Creek being able to get on and run their own water scheme. That is what is going to happen, and this little bill actually exposes the risk to common sense that there would be in the event that Labour and the Greens were to form a Government. It is extraordinary.
I want to just follow through Eugenie’s argument. It goes this way. Because the Government provided a subsidy many years ago to provide good quality water in this community, as it did all over New Zealand, then the referendum on the future of this Cold Creek rural scheme should be over all the people who contributed. Well, let us just test that at a practical level. That means you have got to have a referendum over 4.5 million New Zealanders as to whether the Cold Creek community water supply of 162 people are able to get on and run their own scheme. Well, it would actually cost about $3 million to have a referendum over a scheme that is not worth that much. But that is the sort of ideological nonsense that you get from the Green Party. That is when people are not allowed to have the common sense that Chester Borrows advocates overall. The co-leader of the Green Party Metiria Turei is questioning that. That is exactly the ideological view we got at the Local Government and Environment Committee from the Green Party, that everybody who contributed, which is the taxpayer, to this scheme should get a say in the future of it. Who in their right mind would spend over 3 million bucks on a referendum about which most New Zealanders would say “Look, if the local people want to get on and do this, why would Parliament get in their way? Why would we object to the local people running their local water scheme as a cooperative?”
Andrew Williams: Can we quote you on that when you become the local government Minister?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I ask Mr Andrew Williams, who is interjecting, what he has got against the people of South Taranaki—162 people. All they are asking Parliament to do is to let them run their own local water supply? They are not asking for a single dollar of subsidy from the local ratepayers in running the scheme.
Andrew Little: That’s because they’ve already got it.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member Andrew Williams interjects and says they have already got it. Well, actually, throughout New Zealand the Government provided subsidies for setting up water schemes. That was part of actually improving the clean water supply for communities and I think that is a good thing. We are a practical party of environmentalists over here. We are providing subsidies right now as a Government for cleaning up lakes. We are actually spending more money than any Government—
Andrew Williams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was waiting for you to pick up the Hon Nick Smith, but he referred to another member and referred to that member as being me, and it was quite incorrect. He said it was Andrew Williams when it was actually Andrew Little, and I do not like to have my name used in that manner incorrectly.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sure that was a genuine mistake, but the member will be alerted.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I want to assure you it was not in any way a mistake. The Andrews—both Williams and Little—have interjected during my speech indicating their opposition to this bill, and I am challenging both of them and asking why they are opposed to common sense. Why are they opposed to the people of South Taranaki being able to run their little water scheme, as occurs in so many parts of rural New Zealand on an efficient local basis? The truth is that they are members for bureaucracy, they are members for extra cost, and they are members who actually have no regard for New Zealanders being able to get on and run their own little water supply for their communities. Members on this side of the House say that is sensible and we say it occurs all over New Zealand. We should give that opportunity to the people of South Taranaki who use the Cold Creek community water supply scheme. We support them. We support them doing that—
Andrew Williams: You’re going to hang yourself at this rate when you’re local government Minister.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member Andrew Williams interjects, and I say to him that if there are members in other communities who would like to get on and run their local water scheme in a cooperative way such as this, that is something that members on this side of the House would be happy to support.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour)
: Is it not rich to hear Nick Smith lecture this House on giving communities the chance to run their own affairs? This is the Minister who took away from the people of Canterbury the right to vote for their regional council, and he comes to this House and he tells us that members who might oppose this bill want to take away the rights of local communities to have control over their own affairs. Have a look in the mirror, Dr Smith. I know it is not pleasant, but when you do you will see somebody who took away those rights.
While we are on Dr Smith’s contribution, could we not have just a little bit more generosity from Dr Smith about the fact that the taxpayer has contributed to this scheme, because—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: And so many others.
GRANT ROBERTSON: Indeed, but the impression being given by Dr Smith is that this was all the work of the local community, nobody else has done anything, there is this terrible injustice being created here, and if only we had just let the local farmers run this right from the beginning, right from day one, everything would be fine. This has been a partnership between the local community and the taxpayer. That should be recognised, and I do not think Dr Smith in his contribution did that.
I am going to take only a short call on this matter. I was not on the select committee, the Local Government and Environment Committee, that heard the submissions, but I
do have two or three issues that I want to raise. Annette King has outlined the Labour Party’s position on the bill, and has done that very well.
Of the two or three issues that I want to raise, the first of those is around process. I know that other members in the House will raise the concern that iwi have raised about the process. I am looking here at a newspaper article from the
Taranaki Daily News in 2010 that makes it clear that the last time iwi were consulted about this by the council was in the year 2000. That is a whole decade in which iwi were not consulted about the future of this scheme. That simply is not good enough. Annette King has registered that point on behalf of Labour, and I want to register it again.
In processes like this it is vitally important that the local community is engaged, and in this case, in particular, the local iwi. They have said very clearly that their stance on this bill—and I know that we have already heard from Chester Borrows that the position of the Māori Party is, in fact, based solely on this point—is that the iwi are taking a principled stand and saying that they are not prepared to see this bill supported because they simply do not think they were consulted sufficiently well. That is their right, but it also points to the fact that we do need a lot more work done on the way in which consultation happens on these issues.
The second point of process that I want to raise I raised in the first reading debate, and that is the way in which this proposal was put to the South Taranaki District Council the last time it was debated, or when the vote was held. That was in August 2011—August last year. That was a split vote. That was a six to four vote of the council. I think we need to be very careful, when bills come up as local bills to this House, to acknowledge that there will not always be unanimous agreement within the local authority that sends a bill to this House, and it is only fair that in the discussion of a bill like this we acknowledge that.
I also in that first reading speech raised the fact that the people who showed up at the South Taranaki District Council to promote this, to promote these ideas, were Chester Borrows, as the local MP—as it should be—but then Neville and Shane Ardern. It presents to me some significant difficulties when you look at the minutes of that South Taranaki District Council meeting, which I have previously tabled in the House, and you see the presence of Neville and Shane Ardern, making statements about what might happen if the council did not vote for the bill to come to Parliament. I think we need to be very careful about the role of MPs, particularly when there is a family connection. I said in the first reading that I respect Shane Ardern, but I think the impression could easily be given when those two gentlemen arrive, along with Chester Borrows, to the South Taranaki District Council and make comments about what will happen if the council does not agree to send a local bill through. Essentially, what they said was that they would find a parliamentary means of achieving the goal. That is not acceptable. That is poor process, and it is the poor process that has characterised this over the last few years.
We need to ensure that when local bills come here we have a clear and honest conversation about the community’s views on these issues. We also do not want to see members of Parliament arriving along at a meeting of a local council and making all kinds of veiled, or otherwise, comments about what may or may not happen if the council does not agree to put the bill before the House.
I do not have a lot more to add to the particular situation. The Labour Party has decided to support this bill on the grounds that this will have community ownership for this water resource, but I do think it is vitally important that we acknowledge that this was a joint project between taxpayers and the local authority, and in the future I would like to see a far better process for consultation with interested groups such as iwi and a far more open and transparent process about what happened inside the council in terms
of it coming here. There are certainly people in the South Taranaki community who do not support this, and I think that should have been recognised more clearly by the Government.
EUGENIE SAGE (Green)
: I am pleased to take a call on the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill. I am particularly pleased because some of the statements from Government members indicate that the Government is very worried about a Labour-Green Government in 2014. I look forward to being part of that Government. I think the one thing I do agree with Dr Nick Smith about is that this bill brings to bear some of the issues of principle, which is one of the reasons we are opposing this Government, because it is all about a privatisation agenda.
It is fascinating being in the Local Government and Environment Committee and having what seems like a small local bill come along that throws into relief these big issues of principle about privatisation of community assets, especially essential community assets around water. So I certainly congratulate Chester Borrows for his very good work as a local member on bringing the bill to the committee. The Green Party supported it at the first reading in accordance with the convention to support local bills, but it has been the further information that has come through the select committee process, through public submissions, that means the Green Party will not be supporting the bill at this reading and subsequent readings.
This bill is needed—those wanting the bill need it—in order to transfer ownership of the small-scale water-supply scheme that was built in the 1980s to rural landholders in the area. There are about 160 dwellings, and about 400 people. The water supply is used primarily for farming purposes. One of the reasons we oppose it is because the Local Government Act 2002—and one of the areas that the Government has not amended, thankfully—contains quite explicit provisions that restrict local councils from disposing of infrastructure necessary for providing water services in their districts. So without this local bill the council could not divest itself of the scheme, because the number of households that the scheme serves exceeds the threshold in the Local Government Act.
As other speakers such as Annette King have mentioned, this desire by the scheme users to divest the scheme goes back to the early 1990s. Then they were very concerned that future councils would corporatise or franchise the scheme. Those fears have not been realised, so we do not see why there is a need to privatise the scheme. That is because there has been quite significant public funding of the scheme. There was a 1984 Crown grant of $1.28 million, which met half of the construction costs. Also, I understood from the submissions presented by the South Taranaki District Council that there had been an effective ratepayer subsidy for some of the scheme’s operation costs as well.
But one of the major reasons the Green Party is now opposing the bill is because of the strong submissions by iwi, and the potential injustice that the privatisation would result in. There was a submission from Paraninihi ki Waitōtara Inc. It was very concerned about the privatisation affecting the value and the potential rental return from its leases in perpetuity over Māori reserve land in the scheme area, because the scheme infrastructure, the head works, and the reticulation network are all improvements. So in terms of privatising the scheme, the value of those improvements is not reflected in the rental value of the land that is on this perpetual lease.
It is also concerned—and this concern is even more serious—that there would be quite a lot of uncertainty over whether water from the scheme would be available to its lands in future. As the incorporation noted, a number of waterways in Taranaki are already under pressure in dry periods during the summer, and many rivers and streams are fully allocated. Some of the leaseholders who are leasing land from the incorporation on a perpetual lease also own blocks of freehold land. The incorporation
was concerned that the current water permits issued by the Taranaki Regional Council might be transferred from the leasehold land to these freehold blocks, and so the incorporation’s land would potentially in future no longer have a certain access to water through the water permits issued by the council.
The incorporation made some suggestions about how the legislation could be amended to provide certainty that Māori reserve lands would have the certainty of access to water. The select committee did not accept those amendments. Given that the land was first confiscated then given as Māori reserve land for perpetual leases, there is potentially a major second injustice caused by this legislation if there is any risk of Māori reserve land being denied water permits in future. So that is one of the reasons we are opposing it.
Dr Nick Smith, as is often a characteristic of Dr Nick Smith, promoted a lot of misinformation about the other reason we are opposing the bill, and that is in relation to the referendum. We have never proposed that there be a referendum over the whole of New Zealand as to whether the scheme be divested. It is a referendum over the whole of the South Taranaki District that we propose. The bill, as it was amended in the select committee, provides for a referendum over only the scheme area—an area that could be served by the scheme. So it is over a very small part of the district, not over the whole of the district, which is what the Green Party supported. We want, given the public money that has gone into this scheme, all of the district to be involved in that referendum. But it is typical of the National Party—and we have seen that, too, in the changes to the Local Government Act 2002 and the withdrawal of the mandatory referendum on any reorganisation proposals—that it wants to restrict the number of people who have an ability to vote.
So for those reasons, firstly, the very narrow area that the referendum would be conducted over; secondly, the fact that there is a potential second injustice to Māori landholders from the proposal; and, thirdly, that substantial public money has gone into constructing the scheme—it has been subsidised by ratepayer funds—
Maggie Barry: Taxpayer.
EUGENIE SAGE: —and it had a major investment of taxpayer revenue of $1.8 million, thank you, Ms Barry—the scheme should stay in council ownership. The council is quite capable of administering it and managing the scheme for the benefit of the users, not privatising it and seeing those users get potentially quite significant private benefits, given the enormous value of water, particularly in summer dry periods. So for those reasons, the Green Party will be opposing the bill.
JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki)
: I am very happy to speak on the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill in its second reading. Also, as other members have done, I want to congratulate the local member, Chester Borrows, on not only bringing this bill to the House on behalf of his local authority and local ratepaying constituents but also for appearing before the Local Government and Environment Committee on several occasions to make some pragmatic and practical explanation of questions that were raised during the course of the select committee’s consideration. Nicky Wagner, as usual, is doing a wonderful job—
Andrew Williams: Here comes the self-admiration club again.
JACQUI DEAN: —in chairing this select committee. It is not easy, actually, for the chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee to put up with the likes of some of the members on it, who are—
Maggie Barry: Always fighting amongst themselves.
JACQUI DEAN: —always fighting amongst themselves, and the reasons seem to be far, far away from some of their consideration.
I just want to pick up the point that the previous Green speaker, Eugenie Sage, noted towards the end of her speech about a referendum not being held over the whole of the South Taranaki District Council area—nor should it be. Rates for rural water schemes are not collected from the whole of the South Taranaki District Council area. The rates, when the scheme was rated, were collected over the area of benefit accrued to those—
Andrew Little: The member doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
JACQUI DEAN: Yes, the member does know what she is talking about. Under the rating legislation for rural water schemes, they are rated across the area of benefit. So it is just and it is the right thing to do that when there is a referendum that it is done over the area that is affected by the rural water scheme.
The area that I have the privilege of representing, Waitaki, is absolutely peppered by rural water schemes. Some of them came about, actually, as a result of farmers utilising the Chinese water races, which are an amazing network that is still standing today. The water races, of course, were used in the business of getting gold and sluicing for gold. They were so well constructed—they could teach us a thing or two about water races—that they are still now being used in some of the water schemes around Central Otago.
Around North Otago groups of farmers, as with the group of farmers that this bill relates to, got together many years ago—sometimes over a hundred years ago—and decided that they were better off working together to get a supply of water from, say, the Waiariki Creek or the Kakanui River. So they formed a committee back in the day, they dug the trenches by hand, and they laid pipes by hand. One of the things they did not do was asset management plans, because they were not required back in the day, so a number of councils around New Zealand have spent considerable time trying to find out just where those pipes go. The old-timers know, because they were the ones who put them in, or their fathers or their grandfathers put them in, and they helped, so they know where they were.
I remember when we lived out in the country. We were on the western rural water scheme. Not only did we have slaters in our water and occasions when the water would also run out—which was irritating as a young mother—but also when there was a leak Whitestone Contracting, the local company, would have to come out and spend days trying to find just where that leak was. That would be a charge upon the farmers and consumers such as ourselves, so councils brought asset management plans into being, and I think that was a pretty good move.
Now we know more about rural water schemes. They have a really rich history in New Zealand. Just as in my region, the farmers who took water from the Cold Creek community water supply scheme did the same thing. They decided that it was to their benefit and that it would be far more efficient for the 162-odd families to work together for a rural water scheme. They were the beneficiaries of a Government scheme at the time that was a dollar-for-dollar subsidy. Well, good on them. Good on them for forming a committee, having the wherewithal to decide that they needed to deal with their water issues, and for applying for and getting a dollar-for-dollar subsidy. Hallelujah! I think that is fantastic.
What puzzles me occasionally about the response, particularly of Labour and the Greens, to the fact that this rural water supply is now going to go into the ownership of the farmers is that they seem to object very strongly to public money then going to the benefit of the private operators. But then I think to myself about Labour’s failed housing policy that they release and release in the hope that anybody will take any notice, which they do not. The numbers are, tragically, all wrong, but that is par for the course. Labour is happy to subsidise people into houses, but it is not happy for Government money and a subsidy to go into a rural water scheme.
I can only conclude from that that Labour and the Greens hate farmers. It is a theme that underpins a lot of the philosophy of the Labour Party and the Greens. They simply cannot conceive of the fact that farmers are underpinning the absolute economic wealth of this country. They cannot accept that. Philosophically, the Greens and Labour cannot accept that the ownership of the Cold Creek community water supply could possibly go into private hands. Well, I can. I think it is a good thing. I think those farmers should be commended for this work and for bringing this bill to the House. I think the South Taranaki District Council should also be commended for understanding and recognising that a local company running a rural water scheme is actually going to do a better job than a council. It is well understood, particularly in my area, that local control of a rural water scheme means you get local good sense, and that local good sense can save money for those ratepayers and has everything to recommend it. Thank you.
ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First)
: I take a call on behalf of New Zealand First for the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill. What a lengthy name it is for what is a relatively small water supply set-up.
I firstly would take exception to the Hon Dr Nick Smith putting us in the ranks of those who would be opposing this bill, because he obviously had not heard my previous speech earlier this year, when we said that New Zealand First had looked at all the facts of this matter and would be supporting this particular proposal because it did seem to, at the end of the day, stack up. So that perhaps takes that out of the sails of the Hon Dr Nick Smith, who was making out that we were doing otherwise.
One of the reasons we supported it was that it did come to our Local Government and Environment Committee, and it came quite a number of times. It was thrashed out at length and was sent back to the local council, it was sent back to the officials, and indeed there were other advisers who came along. We managed to sort of flesh it all out to get some pretty good improvements out of the whole thing, because in the beginning there were doubts about some aspects of it, and we had some grave doubts.
I think it started off from the situation where there were concerns from the council that the local member—and this is the member who is part of the self-admiration club of the National Party—had gone along with the chairman of the water company, Mr Neville Ardern, who happens to be the brother of the MP Shane Ardern, and who happens to be mates with the local MP, Chester Borrows. Nepotism is alive and well in the National Party, obviously, as we heard in question time this afternoon—nepotism is alive and well. It was unfortunate, the Local Government and Environment Committee was told, that there was a little bit of standover tactics from these people. These MPs and the chairman of the water company stood over at this council meeting of the South Taranaki District Council and said: “Well, basically, if you don’t agree to this, if you don’t do this, we’ll have it rammed through Parliament anyway and you won’t have a choice in the matter.”
I think that set off a few alarm bells for members of the committee, when we heard that there were elected members of Parliament putting pressure on the local council to comply with their wishes—this included the brother of one of the members of Parliament—or it would basically have its local government rights locally taken away by Parliament. The Hon Nick Smith can sit there, smile, and say: “Well, this is the National Party giving the locals what they want, and the locals their opportunity to speak.” It was only as a result of the Local Government and Environment Committee spending a lot of time and making sure that the local people were not actually being walked over by a few heavy-hitting members of Parliament, with family members associated with the deal, that that was the case.
In regard to this, we were also very concerned that the people were not being asked about it. One of the requirements of our select committee was to get a referendum in
place, and that was when New Zealand First said we would be prepared to support it—if the local people affected by the scheme, who were the users of the scheme and who were in that catchment area of the scheme, at least had the right to be asked: “Do you want this to be taken over by your local people, or do you want it to be left as is?”. The fact that we were able to get that referendum included in the bill was a major step forward as well.
We also were concerned when we heard from local iwi who felt that they had not been consulted adequately—some members of the local iwi who submitted to the Local Government and Environment Committee felt that they had been left out of the loop entirely—and again we were somewhat surprised that there had not been adequate consultation. Again, we got built into the bill that there would be improved liaison with local iwi. So that was a good outcome.
I think at the end of the day this is a somewhat unique situation in that the source of this supply comes high up on the sides of Mount Taranaki—Mount Egmont—and comes down into this particular catchment area. It was developed 30 to 40 years ago by the locals, who at the time needed water reticulation and irrigation for farms and also water for some of the small dwellings of people in the area. Now there are more than 500 or 600 people who are consumers of the scheme. Therefore, it is a unique scheme, in a sense, in that it is self-contained. It is for the one community, and it does not then go on and feed others or link into anywhere else.
It is a self-contained scheme, and it is one where a lot of local money has poured into it from the various farm owners. We were told that a lot of work had been done voluntarily over the years by farmers to keep the pipes and keep the scheme operating. A lot of labour had been put in over the years. The council had also provided, at no cost, some engineering assistance and expertise over the years, so it was a bit of a joint effort on the part of many, and some taxpayer money had gone into subsidising parts of the scheme to ensure that it operated. So in that respect it has been a win-win for the community, and by returning it to community ownership of the people who are the scheme users then it does become very much a cooperative water scheme, which has merit.
The committee was also concerned in terms of health issues, and you will note that in the bill there are also provisions that there must be consultation with the health department in terms of the quality of the water, because again we did not want to see a situation where the scheme was not meeting health quality standards. That does raise, for the Hon Nick Smith’s benefit again, the fact that all around New Zealand local government and local communities for the last 10 or 15 years have increasingly had to meet higher and higher potable water standards for good, healthy drinking-water. It has been a big burden on many communities in New Zealand to get their water up to standard. There has been some considerable cost go in all around New Zealand to improve the infrastructure in our water supply systems, to ensure that we do have good, healthy, clean drinking-water. Often Dr Nick Smith will say that councils are spending some outrageous money around the country on all sorts of things. In fact, one decent chunk of the money that every year goes out is actually part of the improvement of the water supply around New Zealand, which back in the 1980s and 1990s had got into a somewhat dire state. During that period it was very, very clear that many water systems around New Zealand needed some major, major upgrades and improvements.
So can I just also commend—rather than the self-congratulation committee of the National committee—all members of the Local Government and Environment Committee on both sides of the committee, not just the National ones, who like to just congratulate themselves. We all had an input into this, and we did, I think, make some significant improvements to the bill, which at the end of the day those people in that
South Taranaki area and in the Cold Creek rural water supply area will benefit from. It was a good outcome for all.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I am very pleased to speak on this South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill. I am also pleased to say that I will be in Wanganui on Monday with the Hon Chester Borrows. I look forward to being in that community, because what was very clear when we heard these submissions was the passion from the people who have contributed to this scheme. We are proud, on this side of the House, to say that we believe in community assets, and we believe in empowering the community.
What I want to say with regard to this bill is that it is very interesting that we have a situation here where many residents have contributed to this scheme, and all they want to be able to do, as the Hon Nick Smith mentioned, is to control this scheme and potentially vest it in the ownership of the community. That is a really positive thing. Can I just say as well, and point out to members, that what this bill does is set in train a process. It sets in train a referendum for residents to potentially get ownership of that scheme. That is a positive thing. We in the National Party support that.
I want to seek clarification, particularly from the Green Party, on this issue, because I do understand and I do actually have a lot of respect for them. I might not agree with Eugenie Sage, but I have a lot of respect for the work she does. I want to seek clarification on the issue of the fact that the Crown did provide some funding for this. Why would the Green Party have a position that if that funding is provided then it should not lead to community asset-ownership? I would ask the Green Party, then, to clarify all the waste management schemes around the country. There are many other community assets that have some Crown funding, and to state a position that says that somehow, as a result of that, there should not be community ownership I think is a sad day for New Zealand. But I do welcome clarification on that particular point.
I want to make two other minor points. The first is that there have been some very good improvements to this bill, partly as a result of looking at who can be involved in that referendum, and also the issue of ensuring that there is better iwi engagement in terms of the process. I want to acknowledge the chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee, Nicky Wagner, and I want to acknowledge all other members of the select committee as well for their hard work on this particular issue. I am very pleased to support this important bill, which is about empowering communities and ensuring that for this asset there is a process in train to enable the people who have contributed to this asset to actually have ownership of it. That is a good thing. We support it.
ANDREW LITTLE (Labour)
: It is a pleasure to take a call on the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill. It was very good of the member who just spoke, Nikki Kaye, to say that she is going to be in Wanganui, or Whanganui, on Monday with Chester Borrows. She will be about an hour and a half’s drive away from the area that will be affected by this bill, so she has got a little more work to do if she wants to get an understanding of just how people in that area feel about this bill. There is not a unanimous view that this is necessarily a good thing.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: That supports it or opposes it?
ANDREW LITTLE: Let me be very clear: the Labour Party will support this bill. That is the position that is being taken. But because Dr Nick Smith thinks in very simple terms, he cannot understand that there might be, you know, gradations of support, and there might be other concerns that are equally relevant.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Shades of grey in his case.
ANDREW LITTLE: Shades of grey in his case, yes—you are not 50 yet, not
Fifty Shades of Grey, hopefully.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Spare the thought.
ANDREW LITTLE: Exactly.
Nikki Kaye: Keep it seemly.
ANDREW LITTLE: That is right. No, no, we like to keep our cultural references current and to the point—no pun intended. But here is the thing: the Labour Party will support this bill, but that is not a reason not to register the sorts of concerns that my colleagues—Grant Robertson, in particular—have already noted.
Let us be very clear: the farming communities in all parts of Taranaki, including South Taranaki, are absolutely vital to the region and are a good bunch of people. That is why the Labour Party, in Taranaki, enjoys a very good, close relationship with the local branch of Federated Farmers. We have good dialogue, we meet regularly, and we have good discussions. But there are concerns about measures like this, and those concerns should be put on the record.
Let us go to the origins of this particular water scheme. It was funded by a 50 percent, or a dollar for dollar, grant by central government when it was put in place in the mid-1980s. That grant made its way through what was then the Egmont County Council, which had responsibility for that area. I do not know why it later became the South Taranaki District Council, or the “STD Council”, as it is known locally, which is a most unfortunate name. But I promised I would get off
Fifty Shades of Grey. The scheme had a 50 percent subsidy from central government. That subsidy was paid on the basis that the scheme would demonstrate a greater than usual marginal benefit for the subscribers to, or the users of, the scheme. Indeed, that has been the case.
Of the submissions that went to the Local Government and Environment Committee, there were some very good ones that showed the actual impact of the scheme. Those local farmers who were originally part of the scheme and those who have come into it through succession or acquisition of farms have enjoyed not just the benefit of the mere existence of the scheme but also the added value that it has created, and that is a good thing. It is a wise use and a sensible use of taxpayer money and a partnership relationship between the Government and communities such as this.
There were two other sources of value that have made up the scheme. One is the sweat equity and hard labours of the farmer subscribers to the scheme, who, at the time of its construction, used their plant and machinery, amongst other things, to assist in its construction and development. Also, the local district council, now the South Taranaki District Council, provided its engineering expertise as part of the maintenance of the scheme. In particular, in terms of the head works and the pump-house, it has provided some maintenance and engineering expertise to support that and be part of its upkeep. So it is not true to say that it is just the hard labours of the local farmers who are the beneficiaries of the scheme at the moment.
That is why I think it is important that we take time and we pause to reflect on exactly who has contributed and where that value might be properly reflected. It is for that reason, too, that it is good to see that, as part of the referendum process and the change that has been suffered as a result of the select committee process, it is not just a simple referendum but a referendum that requires all of the relevant information to be put before the electors—those who will be able to take part in the vote.
Let us be clear about why some of the farmer members who have made submissions to the select committee want this transfer to go ahead. They have been very clear. One submission was from a farming couple. They say they have got a farm near Te Kiri, with two dairy farms and a drystock unit, and they receive their water from the Cold Creek system. This came from a second-term councillor on the South Taranaki District Council, who had declared his conflict of interest. He said that one of the attractions of the scheme when it was built was the one-to-one Government subsidy, on the basis that
it would be able to generate a designated economic gain from production increases. Those submitters went on to say that the reason they wanted the divestment now is that they did not want the scheme to be caught up in potential negotiations over iwi settlements.
Another farmer with the surname Ardern—not the chairperson of the scheme and not the member, but a different Ardern again—said he supported it because, as he described it, “It puts ownership of the scheme infra structure where it rightfully belongs. Local ownership and management …”. There is no acknowledgment of the public contributions to the scheme, just that the locals should have ownership of it.
Another submitter, Anna Dodunski, said that “… local ownership brings with it a quicker response time” and that “local ownership of Cold Creek Water Supply is fundamental as only the residents on the scheme have invested interest in protecting the waterway and ultimately the future of the river which is cold creek.” That is a farmer sentiment, but it is not all entirely correct.
One of the main iwi who submitted on the bill, of course, noted that they had not been consulted on it. One of the other changes that the select committee process created was that there will now be proper consultation with local iwi—and not just one iwi, of course, but all local iwi. They will all now be consulted on it, and they will have a chance to have a say.
None of that was in the original bill, and none of that went before the South Taranaki District Council when it was being asked by Chester Borrows, Shane Ardern, and Shane Ardern’s brother to support the bill. Those changes have been made. It is important that those changes were made, and it is good that they have been. For those reasons, in spite of the reservations we had originally, Labour will support the bill.
MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore)
: I rise to speak to this bill, the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill. I would like to echo some of the sentiments that were raised by the local member who proposed it. I think Chester Borrows is an excellent local member of Parliament. As he pointed out when he worked through the background to this bill and the history of this bill, it has been a long time coming. The people—400 individual people and the 162 connections—have been working on this for about 12 years. There have been bureaucratic changes, which the member who just sat down, Andrew Little, outlined accurately, so I will not go into those. There really needed to be a common-sense approach to this, and the local member, Chester, came to this House and had an excellent idea.
The Greens have opposed it, and I wonder whether therein lies the problem—that they do not have local members. They do not have to listen to anyone who does not think the way they do. They do not actually represent a group of people and have to actually take a local cause to a wider arena, explain it, and argue it through. They just cocoon themselves in their own little mad, Green world and say “This is what matters. We think it is right and therefore it is.”
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take personal offence at that reference, and ask that she be made to withdraw and apologise for it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: In the course of an earlier contribution from a member in the party to the right of the Greens, there were very crude assertions made about the motivations of a colleague of ours, Shane Ardern, implying corruption and other things. I think there does need to be some degree of robustness about points such as those being raised.
Metiria Turei: If the member is taking offence at something that somebody else has said, then he is quite entitled to, but I have made explicit reference to an explicit statement concerning mental health issues, which Maggie Barry has accused the Greens
of having. I take personal offence at that, and I ask that she be made to withdraw and apologise for her comment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am just struggling to recall the comment that was made and the context in which it was made.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I can help without being specific, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Be very careful but helpful.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I will not repeat the comment, Mr Speaker, but there is no doubt that the member referred to the Greens generally—the parliamentary Greens—as having mental health issues.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Having—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Mental health issues.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Did the member do that?
MAGGIE BARRY: Not at all. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She knows what she said. She knows the word she used, and I am asking that you require that she be made to withdraw and apologise for the use of that word.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am going to ask the member to withdraw the comments—I am going to ask the member to withdraw the comments.
MAGGIE BARRY: I am not wishing to cause any trouble here, but I am just not sure which comments—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, just withdraw the comments. [Interruption] I am going to ask the member to withdraw the comments that caused offence.
MAGGIE BARRY: I do not know which comments they were, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have given the member the words.
MAGGIE BARRY: I withdraw the comments that caused the offence.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you.
MAGGIE BARRY: Right. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Hon Member: But how does she know not to say it again?
MAGGIE BARRY: No, I do not. So—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Thank you.
MAGGIE BARRY: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Hon Maryan Street: Stop being so offensive.
MAGGIE BARRY: Yeah?
Hon Trevor Mallard: She’s had a long lunch and she goes stupid—a long lunch and she goes stupid.
MAGGIE BARRY: Oh, thanks very much. So I need the permission of the heckler opposite tonight before I continue?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Thank you. Look, we were making quite reasonable progress. I have asked one member to withdraw. I could ask the member to withdraw his comments as well; I am not. I am just going to give a general warning. Let us make some progress on this bill.
MAGGIE BARRY: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will resume. So as Chester Borrows the local member so eloquently put it earlier, why did they want to make this change? Why did the people of Cold Creek, some 400 members of them in this connection, want to go to all this trouble and fight for 12 years? It is because it is a common-sensible approach. They want to run their own water supply, and they should be allowed to do so. It is an excellent idea.
The other point that Chester made, which I think is particularly useful, and again it comes back to representing a group of people as opposed to just a broad philosophical negativism, is that the farmers had to borrow money to set up that scheme, and it was
not an inconsiderable amount of money at the time that they put the scheme in motion. So they had made an investment and they felt that they needed to own it. I think that is a point that came through loud and clear in many of the submissions that we received on this particular bill. I think that they have the right to have that sense of ownership, and that is why we all support what Chester has said and why we all support this legislation. If these people want to run their own scheme, why stop them?
It is a very good thing, I think, too, that the local iwi Ngā Ruahine Rangi have advised that they are not interested in acquiring this asset as any part of any future claim. This is being referred to constantly by the Opposition—that the iwi somehow feel marginalised. According to all the evidence that came before our select committee, they were very happy with the arrangement and were not interested in acquiring the asset. They have been consulted, perhaps not all of them in every bit of the detail, but on the whole there was enough accord to make it seem as if it is an excellent community initiative. I think that this is a piece of legislation that should proceed through the House directly and without opposition, and I commend it to the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: This is normally a split call. Is Labour not seeking a call? David Clendon has the call.
DAVID CLENDON (Green)
: In my few minutes I will focus on clause 5, and particularly on the proposed amendment where the Local Government and Environment Committee, to its credit, belatedly endeavours to install the principle of consultation into this bill, the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill. Clearly, consultation is something that has been sadly lacking in the development of this legislation—most particularly in terms of consultation with Māori, with tangata whenua. I am astonished by the closing remarks of the speaker who has just sat down, Maggie Barry, in terms of one particular iwi, or hapu, and I will come to that shortly.
This proposed amendment is too little, too late. One can hear the echo of the stable door slamming and the horse has long disappeared over the horizon. It is too little because all that it actually requires the council to do is to consult with every iwi authority about the transfer of this asset from public ownership into private ownership. The bill does not require it to go below that level. It is too little and it is too late because the core decision, the key decision, has long since been made.
I think it is worth referring to the generally accepted principles of consultation that have evolved and developed, particularly since the early 1990s, around environment law, resource management, and local government law. One of the key propositions, arising from an Environment Court ruling, is that consultation involves the statement of a proposal not yet fully decided upon, listening to what others have to say, considering their response, and then deciding what will be done. It is that notion of a proposal being not yet fully decided upon. Clearly, in the case of this bill, the key decision has long since been made. It is right there, in the core purpose of the bill: to establish a process by which the council may obtain the authority to transfer the asset effectively from the community and into private hands. Further, the principles of consultation also require adequate information about the proposals to be given in a timely manner. Consultation should not be treated as a mere formality. The parties are to approach consultation with an open mind.
This legislation fails on all of those tests in terms of the engagement, or rather the failure to engage or consult with affected tangata whenua in the Taranaki region. The evidence for that is very clear. It is contained in the submissions to the bill. The Taranaki Iwi Trust, one of eight iwi in Taranaki, with an approximate area of interest from west of New Plymouth, around the coast to Ōpunake, and inland into the mountain, to Taranaki maunga, say in their submission that “… given the lack of consultation, engagement and involvement in the development of the Bill, the Trust
does not have all relevant information in respect of the specific details relating to the management and operation of the Scheme.” The trust goes on to say: “The Trust was not consulted or engaged with, at any stage, regarding the development of the Bill.”
We heard from Dr Smith, who endeavoured to substitute volume for content. We heard constant reference to community. Māori, the tangata whenua, make up a pretty significant chunk of the Taranaki community. They have been utterly ignored and excluded in the development of this bill. There is no consultation. There has been no engagement. It is there, in black and white, from a significant iwi with whom the Crown is engaging around Treaty settlements, of course.
The trust does acknowledge that two marae have had some marginal input into this. They make the point that those two marae have got the right to determine their own futures, but they make the point very clearly that this does not constitute consultation or engagement with the trust, the mandated body for Taranaki iwi.
Similarly, the rūnanga of Ngāti Ruanui, with a very similar submission on behalf of 7,000 uri, 16 hapū, and 10 affected marae, make the equally clear point that they are kaitiaki of this area and they oppose this legislation in its entirety. They make the point that this bill has the potential to affect a sea change. The notion that assets that involve water, which are known to be under Treaty claim, known to be subject to Treaty claims, could be transferred from public ownership to private ownership, is a very significant and potentially a very dangerous precedent. They go on to say that “Ngaati Ruanui raises serious concerns about the South Taranaki District Councils consultation with iwi about this Bill. In the last 10 years iwi has not been given an opportunity to discuss or be involved. This Parliament and the Crown should not continue this exclusion.”
These are fairly clear-cut, fairly unequivocal statements of exclusion, of failure to consult, and of failure to engage in a process that has been going on for 10 years, or indeed 12 years. It is unacceptable. This harks back to the 1970s and the 1980s when Māori were routinely ignored in decisions about land and water use and allocation, and so much else besides. Ngāti Ruanui again notes that “the development of this Bill has for many years been debated and constructed by the South Taranaki District Council. … meaningful discussion could have been undertaken with the iwi of South Taranaki. No such consultation has occurred. … The Council failed in this duty to consult with iwi.” And we must agree entirely with that. It is clear-cut; it is straightforward.
The remarkable statement that the former National speaker made was that Ngā Hapū o Ngā Ruahine iwi gave some sort of sign off to this legislation. I would like, for the member’s benefit and for the benefit of the House, to quote from the submission to the select committee from Ngā Hapū o Ngā Ruahine, holding a Crown-recognised mandate to represent the iwi and hapū: “We oppose the Bill in its current form. … there has been inadequate consultation with local tangata whenua by the Council in developing this Bill.”
How one can derive from that the proposition that somehow these hapū support this legislation is, frankly, beyond me, and I do wonder where that assertion came from. I would love to hear some defence of it or some support for it. So, clearly, this bill has failed to engage with iwi. It has been over a decade in the development.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
DAVID CLENDON: I am pleased to take these final few minutes just to reiterate some of the points I made earlier about the very poor process of the development of this bill, which is one of the major reasons why the Greens are opposing it, despite having supported it at its first reading.
We have heard some rather rose-tinted opinions from the Government benches as to the engagement of the community and others, and the community benefits that will flow
from this legislation, overlooking the fact that a very, very significant part of that community—that is, the Māori community of Taranaki—has been ignored, excluded, overlooked, and not engaged with, and those are terms that are taken directly from the submissions offered to the select committee by the affected party.
The Taranaki Iwi Trust insists that the engagement with the marae that have signed off—the two marae, out of who knows how many—did not constitute consultation or engagement. This has been a project some 10 or 12 years in the making. We have read repeatedly from iwi, and hapū, indeed, who ought to have been consulted, that they simply were not engaged with, and in this day and age that is an unacceptable process.
It is true that there is some credit to be given to the Local Government and Environment Committee. It has now, belatedly, inserted an amendment to clause 5, which at least will allow for a modicum of consultation. Sadly, it will be only about the detail of the process. The key decision has already been made, which is contrary to those basic principles of consultation that I referred to earlier, which is to say that consultation should be undertaken before the final decisions are made. Clearly, in this instance, the opening phrases of the key provisions of the bill indicate that the single large decision—the fact that this asset will go from public ownership into private ownership—has been agreed to and made, and there will be very little opportunity to reverse that by interested iwi and hapū.
I suspect, in fact, that there will not be a great deal of pick-up on this opportunity to be consulted with or to engage in a consultative process by Māori in this area, simply because it will be so marginal to the key issue at stake, which is whether or not those assets ought to go from public hands and into private hands. There are the issues around the precedent it could set for Treaty settlements, and for the privatisation of water assets that undoubtedly will be part of the Treaty claims that are in train now, reminding us that some of these entities that have made submissions have been recognised by the Crown. Thank you.
PAUL GOLDSMITH (National)
: As someone who received a large number of votes from Labour and Green supporters, I am very pleased to see a large amount of bipartisan support for this bill, the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill, although I am disappointed that my supporters amongst the Greens have not come in behind this bill and supported it. In essence, this is a practical and a fair solution. It is not a significant economic asset, but the farmers who use it and who will be the shareholders are the ones who are affected and who will benefit from this scheme.
Just going back quickly over the summary of the details, the ratepayers of South Taranaki, we should remember, have never paid towards the purchase, maintenance, or otherwise of this scheme. It has been operated by the residents. Therefore, they want ownership vested to them under the company Cold Creek Community Water Supply. This company has managed the scheme, including finances, operations, and maintenance, since 2001. The South Taranaki District Council had agreed to transfer the ownership. However, the Local Government Act 2002 means that the water supply cannot be privatised, requiring this local bill.
We have considered this bill very carefully in the Local Government and Environment Committee. Some very interesting submissions were received. I am very pleased to support this bill, the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill, at its second reading. Thank you very much.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 59; New Zealand Labour 34; New Zealand First 7; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
||Green Party 13; Māori Party 2; Mana 1.
|Bill read a second time.