Mayor John Carter agrees with National's local government spokesman, Christopher Luxon, that councils should be worried by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta's refusal to guarantee that they won't be forced into the new water entities.
"Despite saying from the start that the Three Waters reforms would be voluntary for councils, the Minister has repeatedly refused to rule out making them compulsory, with councils forced to surrender local control of their assets," he said.
"With the Whangārei District Council pulling out of the reforms before they'd even got off the ground, Minister Mahuta is now clearly feeling the heat. This week she gave a vague threat in Parliament that councils should 'think again' about opting out, on the very same day that her department revealed it had spent $3.5 million on an ad campaign maligning councils for their water management.
"It seems the Minister's early promises that councils could opt out were just lip service. If more councils continue to decide the model isn't right for them and walk away, the entire reform programme falls into jeopardy."
Luxon wasn't surprised that some council s were "having doubts," given that the benefits of the four-entity model were not convincing.
"We've yet to hear how financial scale benefits are derived from networking assets across regions, or on either side of the Cook Strait," he said.
"The new model will also create a convoluted, multi-layered governance structure that will erode public accountability, the fear expressed by several mayors, including Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
"It must be for councils to decide how they do right by their communities," he added.
"National agrees there are complex problems, and we support a stronger water regulator with more power to set and importantly enforce standards, but we believe we should be incentivising change where it is led locally and able to happen organically, not dictated by the Minister.
"National will continue to protect local accountability and strongly oppose the Labour government's centralisation and control agenda."
Carter said Luxon was right.
"We've had some information (from the Minister), but not enough to prove that the Far North would benefit from the reforms," he said.
"There are bigger issues than Three Waters though. What seems to be happening is a process of centralisation, with water, Significant Natural Areas, building, all sorts of areas. My fear is that they are taking the local out of local government, and communities are losing their voice. And we've heard about economies of scale, which haven't been realised, in the past.
"Luxon's right, we should be concerned about what's happening and what the end result is likely to be."