Arrests On International World Water Day!
(Apologise for the length of this thing - but HEAPS has been happening!!!!)
How appropriate! On Thursday, 22 March, International World Water Day, the day after the bogus 'public consultation' for the Auckland Region Water Review ended - People's Option Water Coalition members 'upped the ante' by occupying the Mayoral offices at Manukau City Council.
At 2.00pm, five members walked into the third floor of the Manukau City Council building, and padlocked chains around the handles of doors which allowed public access into the Mayoral offices.
Staff were told why we were there, that it was a peaceful protest, and they had no reason to worry. Staff were still able to move in and out of the Mayoral offices via a back stairway - that is how the Police got access and eventually arrested Meredydd Barrar and myself for trespass, after we refused to remove the padlocked chains from the doors and leave voluntarily. (We had asked for the City Manager to organise a meeting with members of the Auckland Region Water Steering Group so we could put to them (again) that the 'public' consultation period be extended and that the People's Option be equally included for the PUBLIC to consider. The City manager offered a deputation to address the next meeting of the Manukau City Council - which was accepted.)
WHY DID WE OCCUPY THE MAYORAL OFFICES AT MANUKAU CITY COUNCIL?
To make a very strong stand on International World Water Day against the spread of commercialised water services and user charges.
Manukau City Council would benefit from the law changes that the Auckland Region Water Review is trying to promote to enable SABU's to introduce user-charges for wastewater.
We wanted to alert the public to the fact that the Auckland Region Water Review is trying to spread user charges for wastewater across the Auckland region. How? By getting councils to work together calling for the law to be changed to allow Stand Alone Business Units (S.A.B.U.s) to introduce user charges for wastewater without having to set up a Local Authority Trading Enterprise (L.A.T.E.) like Metrowater. The legislative framework timing is tight. In June, the Labour Alliance Coalition Government is reviewing the Local Government Act and Rating Powers Act, so, that is why the Auckland Region Water Review has worked so hard to prevent a non-commercialised option being put before the public to consider, and have worked to undermine attempts by the more progressively-minded Councillors to equally include the People's Option for PUBLIC (not just Council) consideration, and extend the public consultation period. Manukau City Council, with such a law change, would be able to introduce user charges for wastewater.
Poverty and ill health in Manukau will spread if user charges spread for wastewater.
This is a Council which has some of the poorest people in New Zealand, and third world child diseases which are linked to poverty. Water is critical to sanitation and health. This is a Council which in one year, disconnected the water of over 2000 households for non-payment of water bills. If poverty is the reason for being unable to afford to pay their water bills - what would happen if user charges for wastewater were introduced, and families in South Auckland were expected to pay the $300.00 every three months that many families in Auckland City are now paying for water services under Metrowater???? The theme of International World Water Day was water and health. No user charges!
Manukau City Council officials seem particularly hellbent on pushing a commercialised agenda.
Grant Taylor, Chair of the Auckland Region Water Review Steering Group is ex-Manukau City Council and it appears that some Manukau City council officials are playing a leading role in working behind the scenes helping to drive this review with its commercialised agenda. If such 'public servants' are not interested in serving the public, and protecting public property, then they should bugger off back to private enterprise where they belong!
Manukau needs its own water group!
Another reason for holding the action at Manukau was to help encourage the formation of group to focus on water issues. Anybody interested, please email contact details, and a meeting can be called to get a group off the ground. It really is vital, and there will be huge support!
WE'VE HAD A GUTSFUL OF BEING IGNORED! AUCKLANDERS FROM PAPAKURA TO RODNEY - SHOW YOUR OPPOSITION TO USER CHARGES BY NOT PAYING THEM!
User pays for water has led to user pays for wastewater! Call for an Auckland region-wide boycott of water charges!
The Water Pressure Group at it's weekly meeting of 21 March 2001, responded to a letter being sent from Metrowater to people who have been boycotting their wastewater bill payments.
The Metrowater letter states:
UPDATE ON COURT DECISIONS RELATING TO WATER AND WASTEWATER CHARGING
The High Court has now completed its declaratory proceedings relating to the case between Metrowater and two of our customers who objected to paying for water services.
The case was heard in the High Court following a decision that the Disputes Tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear it.
In his sealed judgment dated 10 January 2001, the honorable Mr Justice Salmon confirmed that our service was 'the supply of piped water and provision of facilities for the supply of water and removal of wastwater", indicating that water and wastewater services were viewed legally as one combined service that was not separable. This means that you can not agree to pay for water services and refuse to pay for wastewater services if you are using both.
Justice Salmon's declarations include a statement that customewrs continuing to take water without paying for it are converting it and that continuing to use our wastewater services without paying constitutes trespass. These actions are illegal.
This judgment provides greater security and certainty for our customers and confirms our basis for charging for our services.
If you have been withholding part payment of your Metrowater bill pending the outcome of this court action, this letter is to formally advise you that this has been resolved.
I would now like to invite you to discuss how you would like to proceed. I would be pleased to look at any way we can return your relationship with us to a normal business footing, with your account returning to current debt only. This discussion may include extended payment arrangements or other financial assistance on an individual basis.
In the last few months, we have also launched an independent charitable trust to provide assistance to families having difficulty paying their Metrowater bills.
I invite you to call me on 624 2512 to seek a resolution to your individual dispute with us.
JANICE MILLER REVENUE MANAGER"
The agreed Water Pressure Group reply, which people can use if they wish, is as follows:
"I/we are supporters of the Water Pressure Group. I/we are not a charity case. The People's Option Postcard is my/our response"
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TO SPREAD!
The WPG meeting of 21/3/2001 resolved the following:
"That the Water Pressure Group call on the citizens of Auckland City to extend the boycott of wastewater user charges to cover user charges for water as well."
"That as user pays for water leads to user charges for wastewater, as an act of solidarity, we call on citizens of the Auckland region from Papakura to Rodney to also boycott their water bill payments."
We have had a total gutsful of the public being ignored, lied to and misled. Back your signature on the People's Option postcard with direct action! Show your opposition to user charges for water services by not paying them, and teach the the sellout politicians who are treating we the public with total contempt A LESSON THEY WILL NEVER FORGET!!!!
We were never going to win in Court. The abolition of Metrowater was not a decision the Court could ever make, it was a political decision which the majority of Auckland City Councillors were elected to make and haven't.
The decision in the High Court was clear - water is now regarded as a saleable commodity and its supply a commercial activity. Fine. If that's the law, CHANGE IT!
The Labour Party stated in a response to a questionnaire sent by The Water Pressure Group: (prepared on behalf of the Executive of the Auckland Regional Council of the Labour Party on 26 October 1999)
1 Our party does consider the provision of water services to be an essential public service which should be affordable by all.
2 The provision of water and wastewater services should be managed and funded to retain access and affordibility to the service by all.
8 We support the principles of applying a re-distribution of wealth to fund the costs of continuing essential services and so support rates-based funding for these services.
9 Question: " Does your party intend to support any changes at central government that would extend user pays as a method of funding essential services?
9 We would need to examine any such proposals. Generally, we resist user charges for funding essential services.
16 Question: "Does your party agree that companies should have the right to restrict or disconnect water supplies to citizens?"
We expect ACTION from the Labour Alliance Coalition on water.
TAKE WATER SERVICES OUT OF THE COMMERCE ACT (like you did with health)!
NO LAW CHANGES THAT SPREAD USER CHARGES FOR WATER SERVICES!!!
If you've finished reading this, congratulations! ( I've been up all night writing it).
UPCOMING ACTIONS YOU COULD HELP WITH:
Don't pay your next water bill.
Help distribute People's Option postcards. The reprint is done - redesigned so people shouldn't get them sent back!! (We are ignoring the 21 March Auckland Region Water Review deadline. Keep pouring them in to Judith Tizard's office. She wanted the public to have our say. We haven't had a fair go - we haven't had an equal chance to have our say. It is central government which needs to get the messsage because it is central government which will make the law changes. Keep the pressure on!)
Community Events to distribute People's Option postcards.
Round the Bays. This Sunday 25 March. Meet at Madills Park from 10.00am Meet at the Madills Farm Reserve Entrance opposite the the intersection of Allum St and Towai St. We will have a pickup point there, where people can collect People's Option Postcards, and go walkabout from there. Probably a good idea to distribute postcards at various tentsites, and arrange to come back at a certain time and collect signed postcards.
There are up to 80,000 people who go to Round the Bays! It's a great opportunity! Parking is a pig. You'll need to get access via St Johns Rd, or Apirana Ave and get whatever parking you can as close as you can to Madills Farm. Or get someone to drop you off!
Keen? Email back! We got over 8000 postcards out at Pasifika - should get more here!
Meredydd and I are up on the charge of trespass.
Manukau District Court 30 Wiri Station Rd Manukau. 9.00am Tuesday 27 March. A supportive picket outside would be good! Placards? "You've arrested the wrong people! Arrest those Councillors who've sold out! Arrest those Councillors and Council Officials who are misleading the public and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on pushing pro-commercialised water propaganda that a significant section of the public DON'T WANT!"
A bit long? You think of something!!!! We need a COLLECTIVE effort to have save our water services. We are really rattling the cage, despite our tiny resources. We need you to help! (If you're not already!) Think of someone else who might be interested in this update, and forward it to them. Print it off and give it to someone you know who doesn't have email. Everyone is vital!
Water Pressure Group Media Spokesperson.
and lets get thousands of postcards signed! (the good thing about Round the Bays is that people are organised in their workplaces, so its a great chance to get contacts at particular worksites!)
Take water services out of the Commerce Act.
Be very clear on this point. We are very happy to pay our share of the cost of our collective water services - back under property-based rates.