Speech: Casey at the Taxpayers' Union Stop Three Waters Roadshow

Hobson's Pledge Trustee Casey Costello spoke at the Taxpayers' Union Stop Three Waters Roadshow event in Auckland on 30 June 2022.


First and foremost, thank you for being here and taking an interest in the challenges we as a nation are facing.

In the interests of full disclosure, I would start my speech by confirming that, according to our new Minister for Broadcasting and Media, and Minister of Maori Development (based upon his assessment of anyone who does not advocate for Maori in a manner that he agrees with) I am a “useless Maori”.

In addition, despite my ancestry I do not believe I have the right to speak for ALL New Zealanders who identify to their Maori whakapapa or ancestry.

But I do, however, believe that “useless” or not I have the right to point out that there is a reasonable expectation that the role of Government is to advocate for better outcomes based upon true, factual and rational information.

It is this failure to recognise that we are able to debate important, constitutional shifting issues without it being from a position of racism that is so concerning.

My reason for speaking today is to encourage the debate, to scrutinise poor policy and legislation for what it is and not allow the discussion to be shut down because the Government has inserted a race component where it does not belong.

The mere suggestion that you question the concepts of co-governance is enough to send many into a spin.

We should all be engaged in this discussion; we should be demanding this debate. If it is a logical and rational position, then those advocating for it should be able to present the evidence of where it has succeeded and demonstrate the benefits.

But instead, the request for debate is devolved into name calling and hostility.


It is reasonable to conclude that water infrastructure and investment is not at the heart of the 3 Waters legislation – race based division and tribal control seems a greater priority for this proposed reform.

I will not repeat the informed and rational debate that has already been presented regarding the legislation. I am sure you have heard enough about the dishonesty, unprecedented bureaucracy, theft and undermining of democracy that is occurring to bring this 3 Waters agenda to fruition.  

What I will speak to you about is the elephant in the room; co-governance or how it is now euphemistically referred to as “complimentary democracy.”

This topic that we carefully avoid and evade for fear of the dreaded label of racism.

Perhaps my skin has got too thick but the frequency that the accusation is thrown about seems to have diluted its impact.

I am the granddaughter of Hone Pani Tamati Waka Nene, who descends from Tapua and Te Kawehau, who were the parents of both Patuone and Tamati Waka Nene, two of the chiefs that signed The Treaty of Waitangi.

I am also the granddaughter of Renee Costello, whose grandparents arrived in New Zealand in the 1860s.

I do not consider my ancestry a credential or justification to speak, but to point out that we are all a product of a journey that, through good and bad, has seen us where we are today. Our collective history has established a democracy that on many measures is the greatest  in the world.

The democracy that achieved Maori representation in Parliament as early as 1867 and was the first to give women the vote.  

This legacy is being destroyed by legislation that seems founded on misguided good intention, flawed logic, and, most significantly, a contempt for democracy.

Despite protestations to the contrary, we have this type of legislation because of a commitment by the Labour Party, back in 2018, to “realise” the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

On 1 November 2019, the “Technical Working Group” established by the Minister of Local Government delivered her the Report on a plan to realise the UNDRIP – He Puapua.

As we now know, this report was not disclosed or opened for public consultation until it was forced into this arena in April 2021, nearly 18 months after it was provided to the Minister.

The report title means a “Break” stating the position that it seeks to “break usual political and societal norms”.

The authors, in interviews, have been very clear in their criticism of New Zealand’s political system, stating we have a “lopsided” understanding of democracy.

An insult to a nation that has such an impressive democratic legacy.

As the Government has repeatedly tried to convince us, this report is not a plan or policy.

I will not go into further detail about the content of the report but I will observe that it has to be one of the greatest coincidences in our history that objectives of this plan – that is not a plan – have been realised or at least are in the process of being realised. These include:

  • changes to local government representation systems,
  • reclassification of conservation land,
  • a separate Maori Health system,
  • and water control and use.


Also noted in the report, is the objective of equity shifting away from the previous demand for equality. It seems another coincidence that we now commentators claiming that it is equity that was assured in Article 3 of The Treaty, given this plan is not a plan or policy.

Perhaps it is true that you never let facts get in the way of a good story.

Whether the He Puapua Report was the driving force behind 3 Waters has really become a moot point, but it is probably worth appreciating some of the content of the document that the Minister of Local Government had in her possession, since November 2019, while she was ruminating over the solution for water services.

“Maori will have a meaningful and sometimes dominant voice in resource management.”

And the report calls for:

  • increasing Maori appointments and representation in leadership roles in the public services and all government working groups, advisory groups and other appointed bodies to reflect partnership in their composition and decisions making processes.
  • building upon “innovative” Treaty settlements, including investigating options for delivering greater co-governance and co-management outside Treaty Settlements.
  • Maori receiving royalties for the use of particular natural resources such as water, petroleum and minerals.

Whether it is water or any natural resource, public service, allocation of funding, or democratic framework, the reference to UNDRIP has become the cause du jour to deliver an agenda that seeks to differentiate New Zealanders based upon our ancestry.

It is given similar reverence to The Treaty itself.

Having recognised the political hot water He Puapua presented for this Government, they were quick to distance themselves and by September 2021 (a few short months after He Puapua was disclosed), they had created a plan, to develop another plan, to distance themselves from the first plan. You can’t make this stuff up.

But this time they promise they will consult. I have the feeling that we are shutting a gate and our horses have already bolted.

What we have been delivered in the Water Services Entities Bill is the undefined and indefensible concept of “co-governance”.

Maori and the rest.

The four water entities have been established along iwi boundaries.

The Regional Representation Groups and the Regional Advisory Panels require 50/50 representation of the territorial authority and mana whenua representation.

And how do we select this representation?

For the territorial authority representation the requirement is specific:  

(a)        elected members or chief executives of a territorial authority, or;

(b)       senior managers of a territorial authority that have appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience to assist the regional representative group.

But don’t forget that, for some of these entities, there are upwards of 20 territorial authorities vying for a position as a territorial representative.

Mana whenua representation is of course a different qualifying requirement, they need only to be mana whenua. With no requirement for skill, knowledge or experience in water management, governance, or demonstrated authority to represent (i.e. an elected person).

There is no democratic or transparent process that would provide any assurance of capability, suitability, or even early recognition of potential conflicts of interests.

And what is the qualifying factor for mana whenua? I wonder if the Minister for Maori Development will allow “useless Maori” to be considered.

And does this legislation operate on the assumption that Maori never disagree – that we operate in a utopian state of cordial agreement?

We know that consensus of opinion has not been a guarantee in iwi decision making. We need only look to the Ihumatao land dispute to know that agreements are not always certain, no matter who is appointed to make the negotiations.

Gary Judd QC recently wrote “Co-governance based on race is indefensible. Devolving power to govern to the unelected threatens liberty, democracy and human dignity. Even worse when the evil of race based discrimination is added.”

And make no mistake, race based discrimination, no matter how noble your intention, is evil.

It does not assure fair representation for that race, it opens the door for the self-appointed, self-important elite to claim they speak for all, devoid of any accountability through a democratic process.

I defer to the truly honourable statesperson Sir Apirana Ngata, when he said in his 1940 Waitangi Centenary speech:

“If anything brings home to the Maori what complete citizenship of the British Empire means it is that side by side with the privileges of that citizenship go its obligations.”

Surprisingly, he made no mention of self determination but instead recognized the obligations of being joint citizens of our wonderful nation.


And for all those advocating co-governance as the solution to all the issues – well are they really representing the real concerns for Maori?

The Newshub Horizon Research Poll of Maori voters earlier this year determined that the greatest concern on which they will base their vote in the next election was cost of living. A lightning bolt moment – isn’t that the same for all of us.

We, all New Zealanders, are seeking a government that will deliver better outcomes, not distract us by adding bureaucracy, costs, and unworkable legislation to avoid direct accountability.

And if there was any doubt about what 3 Waters was really about, then look no further than one of the 3 Waters working group members, Tuku Morgan:

 “We have always said that we’re not interested in owning the water assets. What we’re interested in is the proprietor rights over water, and that is a discussion to be had with the Crown not with Councils.”

In reality, the advantage of race-based policy is that you can never fail. If better outcomes are not delivered there is the secure fall-back position of blaming all that is wrong on colonization and systemic racism.

It is time to look to better solutions, more efficiency, greater accountability, and less cost.

There is no justification for undermining our democracy to place unelected and unaccountable representatives in charge of something that is a necessity of life.

As Gary Judd observed, “In a Free Society the evolved method of restraining those who gain power is democracy, it gives the people the ability to peacefully remove them.”


We are expected to demonise democracy, because of the war cries of a few who would benefit greatly from an alternative.

Whatever we decide, devolving control into an ill-defined tribal framework will serve no purpose.

I implore you to stand against this Bill and demand better legislation, defend our democracy, and do not let us be further divided by when our ancestors arrived in this country.

As Sir Peter Buck warned…………beware of separatism.