Rise of the Lobbyists.
An unpopular opinion, I love Auckland.
Not so much the transport or the house prices - those are pretty dire. But there’s a lot to like. We’ve a vibrant, multicultural city in a beautiful location with, mostly, friendly locals. From the native bush of the Waitakeres to the Gulf islands, it’s a special place.
It’s particularly so to me because almost all of my White Wine in the Sun people, my Mum and my Dad, my sisters and brother in law, nephews and nieces, live here too. Although the traffic sometimes makes it feel like they’re still a fair distance away.
Like many places in our country water management is a big problem. It’s not unusual to have water restrictions so we’re not flushing too much of the good stuff down the loo, or wasting it on watering our SUVs.
When it rains heavily the streets overflow. When the weather is really bad, which seems more and more frequent, houses flood.
Worst of all in this beautiful city of beaches, bays, and two harbours, when we want to enjoy them we find we can’t because we’re pumping waste that would makes us sick into the water we want to swim in.
Like many places in Aotearoa millions around the world would love to be able to live here, but the infrastructure is a big problem. To top it all off in Auckland we’ve elected a mayor, Wayne Brown, who said he didn’t want to spend money sorting it out.
Which was bad enough. But now that the Government is cancelling Three Waters and kicking the can back to local government, it’s worse. Local councils and mayors must be, certainly should be, freaking out at what lies ahead.
Labour Local Government spokesperson Kieran McAnulty MP said:
“The Government’s confirmation today it will repeal the affordable water reforms will see higher rates for every ratepayer – up to 90 percent in some individual councils – in 30 years.”
“The cost of fixing our broken water infrastructure is estimated at $185 billion over just three decades. It is simply irresponsible of National to ignore the problem.
Our mayor in Tamaki Makaurau receives this as a double whammy, on top of the cancellation of the Auckland Regional Fuel tax, announced last week. That left “a shortfall in transport funding for Auckland of $1.2 billion over the next four years.”
Poor old Wayne who ran on a platform of low spending, now has to sort out Auckland’s infrastructure debts in both Transport and Water Management. All without assistance from central government. But don’t worry Wayne, hope is on the way. In the form of Simeon Brown.
You might remember Simeon as the guy who cancelled all the transport projects. Also as the bloke who when we had the tragic storm a bit over a year ago chose not to risk getting in the way assisting, as others from central and local government were doing.
Instead Simeon cosplayed as clean up crew. Pouring some soil onto a berm in his electorate for a photo op in his shiny new gear.
Yep - that guy’s going to sort it all out. Breathe easily, but perhaps don’t hold your breath. Still don’t be too concerned, young Simeon is going to have some help.
Yesterday the Prime Minister held a press conference in which he confirmed that Three Waters would be canned by the end of next week. He said councils would be left to sort water out themselves, and when they failed corporate interests would take over who would deliver water for a profit. While meeting the barest minimum of health and safety requirements legally allowed.
Actually he didn’t use those exact words, but you could tell it’s what he meant. What Luxon did say was that his government would be introducing new bills. So from one bill to multiple bills, I wonder what the Minister of Deregulation thinks about that?
The PM handed things over to Simeon, as the Minister for Local Government, who said he was pleased to announce “a technical advisory group to provide me with assurance on the policy and legislative framework that the Prime Minister has just outlined”.
Simeon said that his advisory group would “include experts in finance, infrastructure and local government. It would provide advice on policy and legislation that would allow local councils to appropriately recover costs and access the long-term debt needed to fund the required investment in water infrastructure.”
Hmm I suspect that “experts” is really just a more polite way of saying “lobbyists”. But forget all the other industry collaboration on fossil fuels, property investment, and tobacco. That all pales in comparison with what’s taking place on water.
In the short time this government has been in power we’ve seen an unprecedented level of moneyed interests hold influence. Corporate lobbyists, wealthy donors, and somewhere lurking in the shadows no doubt, the Atlas Network. Who have connections with at least one party in the coalition.
So who are these unelected “experts” who will be providing direction to the government? Well the group will be lead by Andreas Heuser, the managing director at Castalia. Perhaps they sound familiar to readers?
Yes, the government will be replacing Three Waters using an advisory board headed by our old friends from Castalia. Some of you might remember the article in which I discussed that company’s role in lobbying for private arrangements on water.
I also covered the fact that Castalia were the only “independent economists” willing to pretend Nicola Willis’ tax plan at the last election wasn’t a complete load of fertilizer. Putting their reputation above and beyond the line.
Now it looks as if they’ve received their reward. You can read that article below, it’s not paywalled, and is quite timely:
This really is mental. The government should not be using a lobbying entity, with what appear to be quite flexible ethics, to advise the government on our water. I’d say what next? Tobacco lobbyists on health committees? But that doesn’t seem like much of a joke these days.
Another member of the expert group is Mark Reese. According to his LinkedIn profile, “a partner in the Chapman Tripp Wellington finance team with experience in all aspects of domestic and international bank and capital market fundraising, project and asset financing, securitisation programmes and cross-border transactions.”
In other words, a money man.
Look you’d have to be pretty naïve at this point not to realise that people are looking to profit from our water. So when you think about the moves in play to change the role of te tiriti it starts to make more sense.
We always knew there was an aspect of revving up anti Māori sentiment for votes. This was borne out in the rise of ACT in the poll taken recently by fellow Atlas Network associated organisation, the Taxpayers’ Union. Most convenient.
But there might be more to it than that. Because I imagine that if you want to start making money from selling off water, or at least clipping the ticket, then you wouldn’t want a pesky old treaty hanging around complicating things. Would you?
It made me wonder how the people who were so opposed to Three Waters, due to Māori having a seat at the table, feel about such a role being given instead to corporate lobbyists. Individuals motivated by extracting profits from our water resources, not protecting them.
It feels like our sleepy little country on the edge of the world is receiving a harsh wake-up call on the influence of corporate lobbyists on governments.
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You kind of expect it in the fossil fuels and tobacco industries, and no doubt from the gun lobby too with ACT. But you don’t expect it with water. It goes hand in hand with oil and cigarettes, but it feels like a nightmare seeing it involved in our precious water.
Three Waters was not only a sensible government initiative to address a massive infrastructure problem. But in my opinion the role of Māori was important beyond it being the right thing in terms of fair representation.
When it comes to looking after our water I trust the kaitiakitanga, the guardianship and conservation, of our water by tangata whenua, who wish to protect and preserve it for all. Not corporate lobbyists who want to make a buck.
I wonder if any of those who voted for the coalition parties are starting to regret it yet? Maybe not, but they might once they get their next rates bill!
My apologies if I’ve posted this song before. I’m a big fan of the Streets and while some of the newer tracks take a little getting used to, it still sounds bloody good to me. Especially after a few listens to acclimatise.