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We Are Neither Vindictive And Frivolous!

Press Statement From The Water Pressure Group 3/12/01

PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE WATER PRESSURE GROUP 3/12/01

In response to Noelene Raffill's reported comments in The Central Leader, Friday 30 November, that the Water Pressure Group's petition of inquiry into the Auckland Local Body elections has "...been a vindictive and frivolous case from the beginning."

Fighting to maintain community control of our water services assets is no 'frivolous' matter.

The definition of 'privatisation' was central to our case. Is the Papakura franchise (Public-Private-Partnership[) with the largest private water company in Australasia - United Water - a form of water privatisation - yes or no?

We believe that ordinary people don't find it a hard concept to grasp that if the Council still owns the pipes (assets), but multi-national water corporations operate, manage and make private profit from that infrastructure - then that is certainly a form of privatisation.

At the international world water conference held in Canada in July this year, attending WPG members, Jim Gladwin and Penny Bright along with hundreds of other delegates, were told that public-private- partnerships were the most common form of water privatisation worldwide. By controlling water services, corporations would control the very basis of life itself - for private profit.

As Mr Collinge was asked during the Court case:

"Why would corporations bother spending millions of dollars buying the asset, when they can make profit from it without owning it?"

In fact, the only place in the world where the water companies actually own the water services assets is in the United Kingdom.

The most common form of water privatisation is the 'French' model - where the water services management is contracted out, or franchised. Exactly what we now have in Papakura - in Auckland - right now. Where is the income stream from the water infrastructure going? Under public-private-partnerships (PPPs), as the Papakura model, the public pays for the infrastructure and shareholders from privately-owned multinational corporations make profit from it. Under public-private-partnerships - the public are effectively disenfranchised from assets we still collectively own. How meaningful is 'public ownership' without public control ? Who benefits most from this arrangement? The majority of the public or the multinational water corporations?

The Auckland Citizen & Ratepayers Now policy on water services, as stated in their candidates loyalty statement, was:

"1 Pipes and reticulation assets must be publicly owned.
2 The existing LATE Metrowater should be retained.
3 Water or wastewater charges must be kept as a separate charge and not added to rates.
4 In the long term (5 plus years) we look forward to a public- private operating partnership structure that works so well in other countries/jurisdictions (such as Victoria, Australia and many communities in the USA).
5 There must be co-operation at the regional level to ensure adequate supply, quality and ongoing levels of service."

Why didn't Auckland Citizen & Ratepayers Now candidates put this very clear policy statement on the pamphlets they put out to the public at large, in an open, up-front manner?

Angus Ogilvie (Vice-President of Auckland Now) stated in his brief of evidence in Court: "

13 This ACRN policy would not preclude an arragement of the kind adopted by the Papakura District Council which was an agreement to operate the system for a given number of years in circumstances where the ownership of the assets was retained by Papakura District Council. 'Contracting out' is the term commonly applied to such arrangements and not 'privatisation'. This is the kind of contract (although the terms may be different) which operates overseas, say in Victoria, Australia, in which assets are owned or controlled by the public sector.

14 I said nothing whatsoever which was false and believe that in the communications in question that I accurately stated the ACRN policy. I also believe that my use of the term privatisation, to mean the alienation of the assets from the public sector accords with normal usage and with the public's perception of that term."

(The Water Pressure Group would be fascinated to know the scientific basis upon which Mr Ogilvie has come to his conclusion that the public agrees with his definition of privatisation, and suggest that he treats the intelligence and common sense of ordinary people with a little more respect.)

On the Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers Now election handbill signed by David Hay, Noelene Raffills, Graeme Mulholland and Paul Forlong they stated:

"Retain public ownership of water and wastewater assets. Just to make it absolutely clear we have never, and will never support privatisation of water and sewerage assets."

David Hay stated in his brief of evidence that he did not support the Papakura model - that is why we withdrew his name from our petition of inquiry. We note that Noelene Raffills, and Graeme Mulholland gave no such assurance. (Neither did any other Auckland Citizen and Ratepayers candidate.)

If a motion was put to the Auckland City Council that Metrowater be replaced with a public-private-partnership such as the Papakura franchise with United Water - would Noelene Raffills and Graeme Mulholland vote for or against it?

There is nothing 'vindictive' here. It's a straight question - we'd like a straight answer. That's exactly why the Water Pressure Group challenged the election, because we believe that the voting public have a right to know the exact basis on which our elected representatives are going to represent us. Straight up. No weasel words. Otherwise - how can we cast an informed vote?

What's your answer Noelene ? Graeme Mulholland? What's your anwser Juliet Yates? Scott Milne? Greg McKeown? Doug Armstrong? William Cairns? Mark Donnelly?

We look forward to your prompt reply.

What we in the Water Pressure Group do know, is that the message that politicians cannot ignore is the organisation of the community at street level, defending what remains of our public property and democratic rights with a campaign of direct action and civil disobedience. WHEN INJUSTICE BECOMES LAW - RESISTANCE BECOMES DUTY!!

There is no mandate for the privatisation of our water services, and we simply will not allow it. The continuation of Metrowater Ltd as a commercialised, profit-making company, is a step towards future privatisation. Our water services assets are conveniently 'parked', ready for future corporate takeover. Metrowater must go, along with 'user pays' charging.

We are unpaid community volunteers, fighting for affordable water services under community control.

We believe that we are working on behalf of the majority of the community. Those who want public-private-partnerships (privatisation) of our water services - in whose interests are you working?? 'Democracy' for whom??

PS: Community-minded citizens - please show your support for our continuing campaign by joining the water bill boycott and making out a cheque to: "The Water Pressure Group" and send to PO Box 19764 Avondale. Thanks!

Penny Bright Media Spokesperson Water Pressure Group (Auckland) Ph: (09) 846 9825

NB: The WPG is still waiting to hear Judge McElrea's decision on costs for the election challenge. Judge McElrea's full decision, and the briefs of evidence from both sides are in the process of being put on to our WPG website:

www.water-pressure-group.org.nz

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