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Wednesday, October 28

Local govt changes disregard environment, privatise water management

Cabinet decisions released by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide today show complete disregard for the environment and would effectively privatise all aspects of water supply services, the Green Party said today.

Green Party Local Government Spokesperson Sue Kedgley was incredulous that the Government has not included protection of the environment, sustainability, biodiversity and climate change responsibilities in its definition of ‘core services’ for councils.

“Surely protecting the environment, sustainability and preparing for and adapting to climate change should be one of the top priorities and core functions of local government in the 21st century.

“Even worse, the changes effectively open up water services to the complete control of private interests, undoing some of the strongest and most important provisions of the Local Government Act,” Ms Kedgley said.

The proposed changes would repeal provisions in the Local Government Act 2002 that require councils to retain control over the management of water services when they contract out to private providers. They would also allow private companies to own the infrastructure for the duration of their contracts, which could now last up to 35 years.

“That would give private interests free reign over the whole water management process and effectively wrest control from local councils,” Ms Kedgley said.

“Under these proposals, not only will private interests be able to manage water, but decisions about water policy and pricing will now be made by private companies.

“This has the potential to be hugely harmful to the public. This theft of the public's assets is alarming and dangerous.”
Other changes announced were also concerning especially the axing of the community outcomes identification process.

“Any further reduction in the involvement of communities in local government should ring alarm bells, especially when we know that Rodney Hide's stated agenda is to shrink local democracy.

“Mr Hide might be simplifying local government, but most of these changes, especially to water management, are simply awful,” Ms Kedgley said.