The tide is going out on community decision-making and New Zealand is at risk of losing the "local" from local government.
Under the Labour Government's Three Waters plan, control of your drinking water, wastewater and stormwater would be taken away from your elected council and centralised into one of four new regional water entities for the entire country.
As Merepeka Raukawa-Tait pointed out in her thoughtful contribution to the issue, the Government's plan has rightly sparked overwhelming concern among Kiwis.
It deserves thorough scrutiny and publicity of the kind National has been delivering for months in Parliament, in the media and directly to councils themselves.
Our principal concern is that the Three Waters plan will strip away local control. It will allow the pipes, infrastructure and other water assets that communities have paid for over decades to be taken out of their hands.
Under the four-entity model being proposed, between you and the people collecting your water rates would be a complicated, bureaucratic smorgasbord of unelected governors and appointed managers.
The only token say that councils would have is through a "representative group", capped at 12 people for every entity – with only six of them representing local bodies, and the other six representing iwi.
That means the 22 councils that make up the proposed Entity B – which spans the Waikato and Bay of Plenty right through to Taranaki and Whanganui – would be represented by only six democratically elected councillors.
Many councils will have no say at all.
If that weren't astounding enough, those representative groups would then appoint an independent panel, which then selects the entity's board, which then appoints the entity's management – like a mystifying set of Russian dolls.
Not only will councils be at arm's length from decision-making, but their water assets will be bundled into these new entities under a completely undefined form of ownership. Councils won't know what proportion of their assets they actually "own".
Their main justification for the draconian model seems to be that we apparently need $185 billion invested in our water infrastructure over the next 30 years to bring it up to spec.
That's despite the whole of the Hastings district spending only a fraction of that, $80 million, to remedy their infrastructure after the Havelock North water contamination.
The entity model is premised on supposed economies of scale that remain vague – other than creating more administrative largesse – and unclear financial modelling and savings assumptions that have been disputed by councils and poorly explained by officials.
Rather than going straight to your council, your water bills will effectively be paid into a pot of money controlled by your entity, meaning that communities with well-performing water services will probably end up subsidising their poorer-performing neighbours.
Unsurprisingly, councils and communities across the country are rejecting the Government's proposal but their pleas are being ignored.
Councils were given only eight weeks, until October 1, to communicate their feedback to the Government despite many having inadequate information to reach sound decisions, and no time to meaningfully consult their communities.
Instead, the Government's attempt at directly swaying ratepayers was a negative $4m cartoon advertising campaign showing sludge pouring from people's taps.
The Government has abandoned any pretence of partnership with councils and made it clear that Labour will ram the reforms through at any cost.
Despite numerous mayors imploring it to hit pause, the Government refused to halt the reform process and failed to rule out making the Three Waters plan compulsory by forcing it through law.
National knows that every New Zealander deserves clean, safe water. We've strongly supported the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai, which will play an instrumental role in setting and properly enforcing drinking water standards.
National backs smart solutions to tackle our long-term infrastructure challenges.
We've committed to exploring practical ideas like co-investment, funding partnerships between local and central government, and incentivising collaboration among councils.
But Labour's four-entity plan is anything but a smart solution – in fact, it's Wellington centralisation at its worst. The model is an ideological fix the Government is wedded to and now stubbornly refusing to take back to the drawing board.
The Government needs to listen to New Zealanders and scrap their Three Waters plan.
Christopher Luxon is the MP for Botany and the National Party spokesman for local government.