It's not every day that Council goes to Court to fight the Government, but that is precisely what our Council will be doing in a High Court hearing in June.
We oppose the Three Waters Reforms proposal to mandatorily include our assets along with those of Auckland, Far North and Kaipara Councils into a new water entity – Entity A.
Over the past three years we have been working on this issue, supported by our hapū partners through our Te Kārearea Strategic Partnership Committee. We appreciate and thank all the other groups in our district and wider Te Tai Tokerau, Northland, for their ongoing support of our stance.
We believe that the way Government is setting about water reform strikes at the foundations of democracy in our country, so in November 2021 we and two other councils challenged the Local Government Minister and the Secretary for Local Government in the High Court. We wanted Government to tell the court, and the people of New Zealand where it stands on the issue of ownership of local assets.
We said we believe Councils exist, legally, under Government, to find out what our communities want and need, to gather funding to meet those requirements, and to develop and run the assets and services that result. That done, we are then required to ensure that communities continue to own those assets, run them and have governance over them.
Government's lack-lustre response seemed to suggest that while it might agree in principle with a lot of things, it prefers to hedge its bets with semantics.
It said it agreed that in general principle New Zealand is a free and democratic society governed in accordance with the rule of law, but that we had not been explicit enough for them to comment further.
It admitted that in general principle local government is an important and longstanding component of the democratic governance of New Zealand, but said we were too vague to respond to beyond that.
My affidavit for the High Court Hearing in June has now been delivered to the Court. It clearly states our concerns about the Three Waters Proposals.
Government is also reconsidering the future of local government and what its overall purpose will be through local government reforms.
In the past Local Government legislation has changed, formed, been disassembled and rebuilt, multiple times.
We've seen centralisation, decentralisation, devolution, and amalgamation. We've had harbour boards and catchment commissions, town, county, borough and city councils, community boards, iwi advisory groups and authorities, regional councils, district councils, unitary authorities and more.
But this is different. With Three Waters, I fear we are facing an upheaval that could destroy the foundations of local democracy and any say our communities have about how their rates are gathered and spent, and who decides on their behalf.
I represent the generations of people who have paid their rates, made donations, gave up land, committed lifetimes to serving their communities through this local government structure, and continue to do so today. I want to protect the democratic accountability of councils to the people they serve. That is why I am prepared to have our day in Court.