The Three Waters $120B grab - what you’re not being told

The three waters are drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. The Three Waters Plan (that you may have seen advertisements for) is a tricky co-governance plan for central government to get control of our assets which are managed by our local councils. After more than 60 iwi-only meetings, Government and tribal leaders have divided New Zealand into four massive, unwieldy zones. Each zone will take ownership and control of our water and water-related infrastructure.

Who will be in control?

Each zone will have a mega agency, managed 50:50 by tribal and council appointees on a 12-member board. For instance, the 20 local authorities in the South Island entity will have only six seats in total, despite contributing all infrastructure. One tribe there will have the other six seats. Those tribal representatives will, in effect, have a veto over what your community gets and pays as 75% of the board must agree on all decisions.

Is co-governance a fair structure?

Based on the performance of existing co-governance entities, no they’re not. The public representatives have nothing at stake, so choose an easy life, taking their pay while agreeing to whatever the tribal appointees demand. And demand they do, often in an intimidating way.

How does this affect you?

Each water agency will decide what services you get or not, how well pipes are maintained or not, how quickly repairs are done or not, and where new infrastructure will be built or not. Most importantly, they will decide how much you pay, whether you receive any benefit or not. Private landowners, businesses and farms will be vulnerable to tribal agendas and conflicts of interest.

Will the board be answerable to you?

No. Board members are not elected. There is no way to challenge them, to make them accountable, to avoid conflicts of interest, or to remedy poor decision-making or damage done.

Will councils be paid for assets we ratepayers funded?

No. The Government will borrow money to settle any Council debt on existing water infrastructure, but they won’t buy the asset. They’ll simply confiscate billions of dollars of value, paid for by generations of ratepayers. Councils will no longer have water infrastructure as an asset to use as security for borrowing. This will undermine council viability.

The Government claims improved water services. Is this credible?

No it’s not. Independent experts have reviewed government’s estimates of cost reductions and say the figures are “founded on unsound evidence and faulty analysis” (Castalia) and “should not be relied on to project actual expenditure, revenue and pricing outcomes” (Farrier).

Are councils in favour of Three Waters?
Councils have less than two weeks to decide. Many are saying “NO” to Three Waters, many are so far sitting on the fence, some are in favour. Cash-strapped councils are being pressured by financial inducements from central government to support the confiscation.

Do councils have to consult with their communities?

Councils are legally bound to consult ratepayers over major decisions on water. Unfortunately, the Government’s determination suggests they may pass special legislation to nullify this democratic requirement.

Why do some call this a silent ‘revolution’?

It fits.  The Government’s Three Waters proposal involves the dismantling of our democracy, the denial of access by individuals to decision-makers, and the loss of accountability to affected communities.


  1. Demand a referendum. Please contact your councillor today or tomorrow and demand a right to vote on whether or not your community wants to give your three waters infrastructure to central government, to be managed by just six council representatives (from all the councils in your water zone) and six iwi appointees.
  2. Copy this page and deliver into letter boxes in your neighbourhood or email to others.

NOTE: Three Waters is part of the He Puapua plan to set up two governments for New Zealand, one by Maori for Maori, and the other, a fully bicultural government for everyone else. This system would be subject to a tribal monitoring committee.