On a road trip through much of the country recently, I noticed signs in fields in a number of far-flung localities saying, "Stop Three Waters". There is quite a groundswell out there.
But the Government is pressing on regardless. It has now introduced a bill to set up the four mega-regional bodies that it wants to take over the supply and disposal of water from city and district councils.
If the Government is to be believed, people in smaller communities will benefit most from bigger financial catchments for piped water, drainage and sewerage. Many ratepayers in those places obviously do not believe it, and their instincts are right.
When they hear Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta say in Parliament, as she did again at the bill's introduction, that too many New Zealanders are living under boil-water notices, some will know that is not the whole truth.
If they are living in places like Reefton they know they have been under a notice for the past two years and ignoring it because their water is fine. The policy on notices changed a couple of years ago. They are no longer withdrawn once an occasional contaminant is flushed through the system, they are being left in place as a "precaution".
The timing of that policy change, about the time the Three Waters reform was starting, makes it hard to resist the suspicion the notices are being left in place to make a case for change.
The Government has spent more than $600,000 on public relations advice for Three Waters so far and it is trying every trick in the book. Besides half-truths (called misinformation when others do it) we have seen some classic dissembling – the art of changing the subject.
It has tried to pretend the opposition to Three Waters is largely fear of privatisation, which nobody has ever proposed. This the Government can dispel enthusiastically.
On the tougher issue of Māori "co-governance" it has employed the phony concession. When Mahuta and Grant Robertson called a press conference to respond to a "working group" of chosen critics, they announced co-governance would not apply to the boards of the new entities. But it never did.
The working group that met over the summer was another public relations device. It was set up by the Government and chaired by one Doug Martin who, the Herald's Kate MacNamara has revealed, is connected to the consultancy Martin Jenkins, which has received $2.5m for work on Three Waters.
Even that phony concession on co-governance has turned out to be somewhat misleading. The bill now before Parliament provides for mana whenua influence to go far beyond equal representation on bodies that will appoint panels to appoint the boards of the entities.
The bill's first clause states, "All persons performing or exercising duties, functions or powers under this Act – (a) must give effect to the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi/ the Treaty of Waitangi; and (b) must give effect to Te Mana o te Wai ..."
Te Tiriti, all water workers will need to understand, is not quite the same as the Treaty. The Māori version, scholars have decided, did not cede sovereignty, only government, though I don't understand how you can have one without the other.
But I'm more worried about "Te Mana o te Wai". What is that? The phrase is a constant refrain in the legislation and not clearly defined. It sounds like water is being invested with elements of human status and dignity that might not be compatible with many of its valuable industrial uses.
Under Clause 140 of the bill, mana whenua are given additional power to issue a "Te Mana o te Wai statement" to their water entity and they may do this as "an individual iwi or hapu or a group of iwi or hapu", quite apart from their collective representation on the body overseeing the water entity.
Clause 141 states the entity must respond with "a plan that sets out how it intends to give effect to te Mana o te Wai".
All this may be just verbiage that will have no practical effect on the supply and disposal of water in this country, but that is true of the entire Three Waters reform.
Read this bill and it is hard to see what the entities and oversight bodies will do except write reports for each other. There will be statements of intent, asset management plans, funding and pricing plans, infrastructure strategies, statements of service delivery performance, paperwork for Africa.
And we will be paying for it without the voting power we have over councils. Those signs in the countryside are right, Three Waters must be stopped.