Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan

 Water reform: what we can change

I have a few mantras that I try to live by, and one of them is the Serenity Prayer, being “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

I applied that mantra when agreeing to be on the Three Waters working group that provided 47 recommendations to the Government recently.

I have seen enough of Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to be sure in myself that she, and the Government, are intent on continuing down the reform path, meaning that bar a change of government, the reforms will go live on July 1, 2024.

There is quite a bit of the reforms that I, and your council, are opposed to.

While there is general agreement that something has to change, the nature of the Government’s proposal has not been well received by your council, nor many in the country.

So why, then, did I join the working group?

It goes back to the Serenity Prayer.

The council cannot change the path the Government is travelling down, but I felt I could influence some change in its thinking along that path.

Among the recommendations is one as to ownership which, if accepted by the Government, will give your council one share in the entity that will manage Three Waters across most of the South Island should the reforms continue.

That share is recommended to come with a power of veto should a path towards privatisation be embarked on in years to come.

There is also a recommendation for subregional representative groups to be formed, meaning if we don’t get a seat at the top representation table, we should get a seat at the table next door, although this will depend on the constitution of the entity.

And there is also a recommendation for a water ombudsman role to be established, to ensure there is an independent place for individual consumers to go to if they can’t get sense out of the entity.

This is important because after the reforms, your elected members won’t be in the position to assist with issues as they may now.

If the recommendations are adopted and the reforms do go ahead, I will look back and think I played a significant part in improving what is being pushed through, rather than just sitting back watching it happen.