MP Mahuta’s 3 Waters $2.5 BILLION attempted asset grab of Dunedin’s drinking, drainage and waste water systems for $47 million plus promises of economies of scale has fallen at the first hurdle. Christchurch City Council has emphatically voted Mahuta’s 3 waters down, so there can be no economies of scale for the the South Island.

My questions of DCC staff regarding 3 Waters were non-answered as below:

From: Simon Drew <>
Date: Monday, 27 September 2021 at 4:31 PM
To: Lee Vandervis <>, “Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members)” <>, Sandy Graham <>
Cc: “Executive Leadership Team (ELT)” <>, Scott Campbell <>, Tom Dyer <>
Subject: RE: FOR REVIEW: 3W Reform Letter – Revised Draft

Kia ora Councillor,

Thanks for your questions in advance of the meeting.  These are predominately questions for Central Government but staff have attempted to respond below in “….”. quotation marks. 


Simon Drew


From: Lee Vandervis <>
Sent: Thursday, 23 September 2021 10:14 p.m.
To: Simon Drew <>; Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members) <>; Sandy Graham <>
Cc: Executive Leadership Team (ELT) <>; Scott Campbell <>; Tom Dyer <>
Subject: Re: FOR REVIEW: 3W Reform Letter – Revised Draft

Hi Sandy and Simon,

I have not provided feedback on our proposed feedback letter because it so panoramically endorses the Government proposed control of our 3 waters by 50% Iwi/Maori without explaining any benefits, and because it does not address the many inconsistencies and impracticalities of the proposed centralising of 3 waters control.
I am disappointed that my questions of staff were not answered in our thwarted 3 Waters question-time because the meeting was cut-off during questions by Mayor Hawkins.

I would like to know in advance of our next meeting what DCC staff understandings are of what is proposed in the MP Mahuta 3 Waters revolution:

1 – why our proposed letter to MP Mahuta contained so many untranslated words? [we have a Plain English policy that seems to have been forgotten]

“Taumata Arowai is the name of the new Water Services Regulator

2 – why the main South Island proposed zone D does not conform to any geographic or catchment areas, but conforms to the historic spread of Ngai Tahu tribal control at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi?  What have historic tribal areas of conquest got to do with efficient management of modern water catchment and drainage systems?

“The June 2021 Cabinet paper A new system for three waters service delivery explains the Government’s rationale for the boundaries of the proposed four entities (Entities A, B, C and D). In particular, refer to paragraphs 89-106.”

3 – Our 3 water’s infrastructure is based on piped and pumped systems. What traditional Maori knowledge can Maori bring to bear on modern piped; drinking water, drainage and sewerage systems, given that Maori traditionally had none of these systems. Article two of the Treaty has been summoned in support, ‘the right to make decisions over resources and taonga [treasures] which Maori wish to retain’, and there is some assumption that this applies to Council services. Council services were created by councils using ratepayer funds. How can Maori “retain” something Maori never had?

“The June 2021 Cabinet paper Protecting and promoting Iwi rights and interests explains the Government’s rational for Iwi/Māori’s role in the 3 Waters Reform Programme. ”     

4 – Can anyone explain how the new proposed centralised 3 waters control group will “create an additional 5,800 to 9,300 jobs over 30 years” and also deliver efficiency gains?

“The forecasted additional 5,800 to 9,300 jobs are required to deliver the significant increase in investment that Government modelling has determined is required to upgrade NZ’s 3 Waters infrastructure to modern standards.  The Government suggests this increase in investment is required regardless of how water services are delivered. 

The Government financial modelling predicts 45% – 50% of operational and capital delivery efficiency savings could be achieved when delivering 3 Waters services under the four Water Services Entities  (Entities A, B, C and D).  The Government financial modelling predicts approx. 2% efficiency savings delivering 3 Waters services under a status quo model.  The premise of the efficiency gains under the four Water Services Entities model is that scale will create efficiencies over time, particularly from centralised systems and aggregated procurement.”     

5 – Will some of these proposed new efficiencies be obtained by using nationwide rather than local contractors?

“3 Waters service delivery will require local contractors in all areas of NZ”

6 – How will we be able to justify our enormous and growing debt levels when the asset base on which this debt has been raised and justified suddenly contracts by 2.5 BILLION $?

“If 3 Waters assets are transferred from Council balance sheets, the relevant level of debt will also be transferred with the assets.” 

7 – Why have the ‘Crown’s duty to protect iwi/Maori rights and interests under the Treaty’ been invoked to justify 50% Maori/Iwi control when our 3 Waters are not Crown assets, but are Council created and owned assets?

“Refer answer 3.” 

The broad Mahuta support in Mayor Hawkins’ original letter has been tempered in this post-meeting version, but the whole tone of the letter is still conceptually supportive of the proposed centralised control takeover, when the people we represent are mostly not supportive.

As an example of unprecedented public opposition to the whole concept, the following FaceBook post by somebody I do not know has today been shared by what must be a record 632 times:

3 Waters simply explained

I was explaining it to someone today in very simple terms:

• You have an asset that you and your family has spent decades paying for

• You pay a small fee each year to pay for the upkeep of the asset to be able to use it

• Someone comes and tells you that they will buy your asset for 10% of its value but you will still be able to use it

• They tell you that they will pay you in 3 years the 10% value of the asset

• They then tell you they are going to borrow the funds to pay you in 3 years but you are going to have to pay them for the loan, the interest and the team of people they will put in place to manage the asset because you are going to use it. So in short you are paying for your asset twice

• They also point out that they are going to have to charge you 10x the amount you paid each year for the upkeep of your asset

• They are going to give away half of the asset to someone else who has the ability to change the outcome to suit their own agenda which inevitably is going to cost you more money…….

And they tell us this is a really good idea and totally for your benefit……

Your Government in action working for that team of 5 million…unless you do the math and work out that its only the 15% proportional part of our population that will end up financially controlling the asset that you have already paid for… you will pay again and again and again


Looking forward to finally getting my questions answered.


Cr. Lee Vandervis

My and other’s views follow for more detailed background:

Christopher Luxon 

 The Government must park Three Waters plans. 

Labour must listen to the multitude of mayors pleading for the Three Waters plans to be dumped. 

With an overwhelming majority of councils not onboard, the Government’s programme is in dire straits and its four entity model is floundering fast.

Only a handful of mayors have explicitly supported the reforms, while the remaining 60-odd are not on board. Many are in fact urging the Government to suspend the process because they have not had adequate time to digest the detail or consult their communities.

The South Island entity D is in serious doubt, with mayors from across the West Coast, Canterbury, Otago and Southland writing to the Minister and asking for a pause.

The northern entity A has all but fallen apart, with Far North and Whangārei already gone and the remaining two councils, Auckland and Kaipara, in strong opposition and likely to leave next.

Meanwhile, Hawke’s Bay mayors are against the reforms and other councils throughout entities B and C in areas like the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Manawatū are hitting the brakes.

It’s no surprise mayors are rebuking the Government’s woeful consultation timeframe and apparent need for speed.

National has consistently said that the supposed benefits and cost savings haven’t been adequately explained to the public.

We oppose the Three Waters Reforms. The touted scale benefits are unrealistic, ratepayers would end up cross-subsidising neighbouring areas, and the entities would strip power from communities and steal control of their water assets.

The Government must heed the mayors’ calls and at a bare minimum, pause the programme immediately.

I would encourage them to go one step further and dump the Three Waters plan altogether. We must keep the ‘local’ in local government.

Luxton suggests the important point that Mahuta’s 3 waters claimed proposed economies of scale only happen if most Councils climb on board. And those economies are illusory in my view even if most Councils do join.
There is a wide variety of water supply and drainage systems across the country with a lot of local expertise that makes these often quite different systems operable. 
Centralising will lose local knowledge and effective local feedback, and bypass many local contractors
The He Puapua proposal is to use our money [taxes] to buy our immensely varied water systems, and then centralise control, contracting and feedback.
Trying to force all NZ’s varied water systems to conform to a one-level-fits-all set of quality controls is a bureaucrat’s dream that will become our nightmare if attempted, in my view.

From: Lee Vandervis <
Sent: Wednesday, 15 September 2021 9:29 AM
To: Council 2019-2022 (Elected Members) <>
Cc: Sandy Graham <>; Tom Dyer <>; Simon Drew <>; Simon Pickford <>
Subject: Re: Vicki Buck’s summation of Mahuta’s 3 Waters proposals.

Vicki Buck

“Water Reforms

7 reasons why the CCC needs to say a big NO to the Government proposal

1. it’s a total rip off for the people of Christchurch The three waters are your drinking water, the stormwater and wastewater .Christchurch over many many years has generally invested well in these assets and has had the expertise and knowledge base among its staff that it can deal with the water issues.

2. Your water assets represent a huge chunk ( about 40%) of the assets the Christchurch City Council has . Actually $6.9 billion !! and against that is held about $1.1 billion of debt .So the nett assets about $5.8 billion .They disappear into a new authority for a paltry 122m which is paid some time in 2024 .

3. Water assets are an absolutely essential part of local government . Everything you do in local government is interconnected because a city or a community operates in a very interconnected way . So for example detention basins become part of the neighbourhood facilities. Fixing old pipes means digging up the roads so you take the opportunity to sort out the roading, the footpath repairs, cycle-lanes and bus lanes at the same time as the work to keep businesses going . The work on Riccarton Road a few years back was a clear example of this .You can’t separate the three waters from all other local government . The whole point of the 1989 Local Government Reforms was to integrate all functions into stronger local government units.

4. Water will be the defining feature of cities and countries in the future. As the climate crisis deepens the access to good safe water , and managing all aspects of water becomes not just more important but absolutely vital .

5. The incentives the Government are offering to join these new authorities are a nonsense. In return for 5.9billion worth of assets the new authority awards across the country a total of $2.5 billion . But only $1billion of that even comes from the government as I understand it, and the rest is raised by the new authority presumably as debt which we get to pay for as well .. so as I understand it we get to pay for the cash incentives designed to make these seem attractive to Councils for the next 20- 25 years …

6. The new authority for the South Island extends over most of the South Island and you can guarantee you won’t have any capacity to go along and tell what you want done. So after taking these assets the new authority then gets to deal with all the water issues in the South Island ( except the top of the Island which goes to the Wellington based authority ) . The waste water, stormwater and drinking water issues in those other local authorities are potentially massive and this new authority gets to send the bill to you for doing all this . The rating base of the bigger cities is absolutely fundamental in making these reforms work because there simply aren’t enough people in the smaller areas to pay for theirs .You don’t just get to pay for the work that is done in Christchurch and given away those assets but you will now pay a share of areas which need huge investment and you’ll get that via a rates bill from the new entity .What you are going to pay is going to be huge . You can’t vote this new authority out and actually I cant see any way at all you can make them accountable but they are going to be rating you for ever .

7. Local government is that -it’s local government. It is the responsibility of the ChCh City Council to look after all things pertaining to Christchurch City -it’s not in its mandate to use its assets and its rating base to subsidise for ever the stormwater, wastewater and drinking water of most of the South Island.

The information on this deal is sketchy at best but based on what is available this deal looks like a very bad one for Christchurch residents.”

Wish us luck,



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