Proposed legislation will open the door for the privatisation of New Zealand's water supplies, the Green Party said today.
The Local Government and Environment Select Committee today reported back to Parliament on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill. The Bill will allow private corporations to own local water infrastructure, or contract out local water supplies, for up to 35 years.
"The provisions in this bill allow for the contracting out of water," Green Local Government spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.
"This is privatisation by stealth. Once this legislation is passed, overseas corporations will begin to circle New Zealand looking for local water infrastructure they can get hold of."
Ms Kedgley said that Local Government Minister, Rodney Hide, along with the Business Roundtable and other groups, has been pushing for water privatisation, and seeking ways of allowing the private sector to purchase as many local government assets as possible, and this bill will enable this to happen.
Ms Kedgley pointed out that a contract lasting for 35 years was an entire generation, or the equivalent of 11 local body electoral cycles.
"A child who starts school on the day a 35 year water contract is entered into will be 40 by the time the private company has to give up control.
Ms Kedgley said contracts between local bodies and corporations will be classed as commercially sensitive, and will be kept secret, so ratepayers will not be able to tell what conditions have been agreed to. "Keeping contracts secret is hardly the transparency promised by Rodney Hide."
"Water is a necessity of life, and access to clean water is the basis of our health and well-being. It is fundamental for public health, food production and survival, and should never be privatised.
Ms Kedgley said the privatisation of local water services around the world has a terrible track record, and has resulted in higher prices for water and under-investment in water infrastructure.
"The Bill will also gut consultation requirements of local government. This will allow local bodies to contract out or corporatise council activities and strategic assets without having to consult with the local community.
"Currently councils have to undertake a special consultation process before they can contract out key strategic assets such as water supplies, or sell off assets like shares in airports or ports.
"Under this Bill, Councils will be able to contract out or even sell of key infrastructure without having to consult with their community."