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Water Pressure Petition Ruled 'Out Of Order!

Water Pressure Group Petition To Parliament Ruled 'Out Of Order!

In an unprececedented step, the Water Pressure Group asked Green Party MP Nandor Tanchos to present a petition to the House, asking : "That the House of Representatives confirm that under the Local Electoral Act 2001 it was the intention of Parliament that politicians should be able to knowingly misrepresent their policies. That the House of Representatives confirm that under the Local Electoral Act 2001 it was the intention of Parliament that those responsible for conducting elections should not have to be knowledgeable of the law, and their duties that it is their statutory responsibility to enact."

The petition was ruled 'out of order' on the basis that it should only deal with one matter at a time, and that the wording: "that politicians should be able to knowingly misrepresent their policies." was not 'parliamentary' language.

The Water Pressure Group will consider rewording and resubmitting the petition.

The point was made to the Clerk's office, that an Electoral Officer, the Auckland District Commander for Police and a District Court Judge had all interpreted the Local Electoral Act 2001 in such a way that the effect was that politicians could knowingly misrepresent their policies.

Electoral Officer Dale Ofsofske had stated that:

"It was not an offence to lie to the public."

Auckland District Commander of Police Howard Broad had stated:

"It is lawful, albeit politically risky for a candidate to misrepresent their policy position."

Auckland District Court Judge McElrea had stated:

"I do not suggest that the ACRN (Auckland Citizen & Ratepayers Now ) candidates have deliberately taken advantage of any such ambiguities but the point to be made is that even if they had, it could not be regarded as an electoral offence or irregularity."

Given that the principles that the Local Electoral Act 2001 is designed to implement, include the following" "4 Principles

(1) (a) fair and effective representation for individuals and communities: (b) all qualified persons have a reasonable and equal opportunity to --- (i) cast an informed vote

the Water Pressure Group considers that it is a very fair question to ask if it was Parliament's intention for the Local Electoral Act to be interpreted in this way.

The facts are:

During the Auckland City Council elections last year, Vice-President of Auckland Now, Angus Ogilvie stated:

"My point, Penny, is that Auckland Now does not have a privatisation agenda, nor does C & R."

A handbill circulated in Avondale Mt Roskill by ACRN candidates stated they "have never and will never support privatisation of water and sewerage assets."

However, a secret candidates loyalty pledge stated :

"that Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers Now (“ACRN”) believed that “Service provision should be contracted out as much as possible”, including water and stormwater, and

“In the long term (5+ 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)."

Angus Ogilvie clearly explained ACRN's definition of 'privatisation', which, interestingly enough, matches that of Sandra Lee, Minister of Local Government.

"By stating in relation to the 2001 election that Auckland Now and Citizens & Ratepayers did not have a privatisation agenda I meant that in so doing, I was outlining a policy which had been agreed by Auckland Citizens & Ratepayers Now that we would not sell the pipes and reticulation assets.

You will see that it is stressed there that in relation to water 'ACRN strongly believes that pipes and reticulation assets must be publicly owned. We are strongly against privatisation of these assets' . It is clear from this that 'privatisation' refers to assets.

* This ACRN policy would also not preclude an arrangement 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. “

(Taken from Angus Ogilvie’s brief of evidence, in relation to the Water Pressure Group’s Petition of Inquiry into the Auckland City Council elections NP No 650/01)

In Court, under oath, during the Water Pressure Group initiated Petition of Inquiry into the Auckland City Council election, now Deputy Mayor David Hay stated:

I don't support the Papakura model, I don't support what Papakura did and I wouldn't support the Auckland City Council doing that...

I personally do not believe that the question of a Papakura model or any other model will be discussed within 5 years."

Contracts of the 'Papakura model', otherwise known as the "French model' are the most common form of water privatisation internationally.

Under the 'French model' the water infrastructure assets are still in public ownership but the income stream from that asset flows into private hands. Multi national water companies don't actually want to spend millions of dollars buying the assets. Why bother, when for the much lower cost of a long term lease they can operate, manage and keep the profit without spending a fortune, and 'owning' the infrastructure?

This form of water privatisation is variously known as 'contracting out', 'franchising' or a'public-private-partnership' (PPP).

A far more cunning form of privatisation!

(Three out of the four biggest water multinational companies in the world are French. Their combined turnover for 2001 was $172,760,000 (US). Their combined profit for 2001 was $12,599,000 (US)

Their names? Vivendi, SUEZ and Bouyges. The third biggest water multinational is RWE, a German company which has taken over Thames Water) Two of the three biggest water multinationals in the world are already here in Auckland. United Water (the largest private water company in Australasia) is a consortium made up of Vivendi and RWE. It is with United Water that the Papakura District Council has a 30 year contract (public-private-partnership) for the private operation and management of Papakura's publicly-owned water services infrastructure. (At the CAFCA & GATT Watchdog organised Roger Award 2001, 'for the worst transnational Corporation operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand, a special "Egg On Face" Award was made to United Water, Assisted by Papakura District Council (Past Councils).

"The lessons that must be learned from privatising such an essential commodity, have led the judges to make this special award to United Water. It comes at an important time, when sensible legislation to learn from this episode and make water and wastewater services core council activities, not to be privatised, is under consideration.")

Within three weeks of the Court case, the Birch Report recommended:

"We suggest that the Council investigate the possibility of using a public private partnersip model for both Metrowater and Watercare."

The Water Pressure Group told the truth about this privatisation agenda and got slammed with over $18,000 Court costs.

We ask again,

was the intention of Parliament that politicians should be able to knowingly misrepresent their policies?

In the meantime, the Water Pressure Group calls on citizens to rely on ourselves, talk to neighbours, families, friends and workmates and join the water bill boycott.

The organisation of ordinary people at street level, taking direct action to protect what remains of our public property and democratic rights is the real alternative to this electoral charade where politicians can say what they like to get elected, then once elected - do what they like.

Read the disclaimer at the front of the little candidate's directory - instruction booklet that people have received with their Auckland Regional Council voting papers.

"Disclaimer

Section 61(6) of the Local Electoral Act 2001 states:

"An electoral officer-

(a) is not required to verify or investigate any information included in a candidate profile statement:"

So, how does this fit with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 21 (3) which states:

"The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government: this will be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures."

If electors cannot cast an informed vote because the information upon which they are casting their vote and expressing their 'will' has been knowingly misrepresented - then how can such elections be 'genuine'?

The Water Pressure Group needs money to continue our cage- rattling. We need money for more leaflets and work on our fire engine, not to mention court costs!

If you haven't yet donated, and support our efforts, please make out your cheques to:

The Water Pressure Group

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