Open letter from WPG to PM on Local Govt Bill
Open letter from WPG to Prime Minister on Local Govt Bill/Water Privatisation
Open Letter To Prime Minister – Helen Clark
7 February , 2002.
The Water Pressure Group is writing
directly to you as Prime Minister and Leader of the
Parliamentary Labour Party for urgent clarification of the
position of the Parliamentary Labour Party on the Local
Government Bill, particularly on Section 129 which relates
to water privatisation.
The Water Pressure Group asks you, Prime Minister Helen Clark to please reply personally and to not pass this letter on to
any other person
to reply on your behalf., particularly Judith Tizard
(Minister Assisting the Prime Minister with Auckland
Issues) in whom we have no confidence and believe should be
replaced. ( Five items of correspondence outlining why the
Water Pressure group has no confidence in Judith Tizard is
appended as an attachment to this letter.)
know, Prime Minister, elections are won or lost in Auckland.
As the Avondale/Mt Roskill by-election result in 2000
proved, water services are of significant concern to
thousands of Auckland voters.
We believe that the
issue of water privatisation is of such huge concern to the
voting public of Auckland and the rest of New Zealand that
it warrants a reply directly from yourself as Leader of the
Parliamentary Labour Party.
Please note that our concerns have been raised directly with Sandra Lee, Minister of Local Government on three separate occasions, and have been raised with the Alliance MPs and Alliance Party. We ask you please to not pass this letter to her as Minister Of Local Government to reply, because a reply from an Alliance Minister to questions asked of you as Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party would simply not be appropriate – with all due respect.
because Sandra Lee has continued to mislead the public and
the House about the water privatisation provisions of her
Local Government Bill, we have called for her to
Please, Prime Minister, we ask you to not
underestimate the feeling of discontent that is growing in
the community against politicians who fail to keep their
promises, and who are seemingly unaccountable for their
Your answers to these eight questions by Tuesday 12 February 2002 would be much appreciated.
Please note that the Water Pressure Group will be doing
everything we can to alert the public to the true
intentions of Sandra Lee’s Local Government Bill, by
continuing to ‘blow the whistle’ and tell the truth about
We look forward to your answers to our questions.
Sandra Lee, Minister of Local Government has received extensive publicity on statements claiming that under her Local Government Bill, ‘local authorities have been prohibited from privatising their water services’,when, in fact this same Bill does not prevent the main international form of water privatisation – ‘contracting out’ – otherwise known as public-private-partnerships.
Below is a copy of the relevant press statement.
“25 /1 /2002
Hon Sandra Lee
Alliance will stave
off any attempt to soften moves to ban local body water
Local Government Minister and Deputy
Leader of the Alliance Sandra Lee says the party will
vigorously oppose any move to soften government proposals to
ban the privatisation of local body water supply and
"This is the first time in the history of local government legislation that local authorities have been prohibited from privatising their water services. I said on the introduction of the Local Government Bill 2001 last month that access to water is not a commodity but a fundamental human right," said Ms Lee.
"I am advised some local authority
figures may regard Clause 129 in the Bill as the toughest
anti-privatisation measure ever inserted into local
Ms Lee said Clause 129 stated that a territorial local authority that was providing water supply and wastewater
services once the Bill
was passed into law later this year "must continue to do
so and must maintain its capacity to do so".
Bill also stated that local bodies "must not transfer
ownership or control" of significant water assets to anyone
unless they are council-controlled, and they are also
banned from privatising the ownership of such
"There are no ifs or buts or maybes around the words 'must' and 'must not', " Ms Lee said.
"I don't want to pre-empt the recommendations of the Local Government and Environment select committee which is now considering the entire Bill, but it is only fair to signal the Alliance is drawing a line in the sand on this issue."
"I am advised that some submissions
are likely to be made to the select committee aimed at
trying to soften or remove the anti-water-privatisation
measures. The committee will make its recommendations in due
Submissions on the Bill close on 22 February 2002.
However, reading of the relevant legislation itself,
shows that Sandra Lee’s Local Government Bill does allow
for water privatisation in the form of ‘contracting out’ or
Section 129 of the Local Government Bill : (Pg 76)
"Restrictions on exit from delivery of water supply and wastewater services ...
(3) This section does not prevent-
(b) contracts for the management of parts of the system for water supply or wastewater services if -
(i) the contract is not for the management of the system as a whole; or
(ii) the contract is for the management of the system as a whole, but not for a term longer than 15 years; or
(c) a joint venture for the construction or management of reticulated water supply, sewerage, or sewage treatment of
the assets remains with the territorial authority; or ....."
1) Do you, Prime Minister, recognise that the Papakura District Council’s 30 year ‘franchise’ with United Water, the largest private water company in Australasia; a consortium made up of two of the biggest multinational water corporations in the world (Vivendi – French, and RWE – German) is an example of such a ‘contract’? YES or NO?
2) Are you, Prime Minister,
aware that water public-private- partnerships of the ‘French
model’ of which the Papakura District Council’s
‘franchise’, or ‘contract’ with United Water is an example,
are the main mechanism for water privatisation worldwide,
and that it is in fact only in the UK that the water
companies actually own the pipes? YES or NO?
3) Are you, Prime Minister, therefore aware that the main danger for water privatisation (IE: multinational water corporations operating managing and making private profit from publicly owned infrastructure) is from such ‘contracting out’ provisions that are allowed for in the above-mentioned section of Sandra Lee’s Local Government Bill? YES or NO?
information, quotes from “Water In Public hands” by David
Hall, PSIRU, University of Greenwich, have been included.
(The full version of “Water In Public hands” is available
from the following website
The Public Services International Research
Unit (PSIRU) is part of the School of Computing and
Mathematics in the University of Greenwich, London. It was
established in 1998 to carry out empirical research into
privatisation, public services, globalisation and
David Hall is the Director of the PSIRU,
senior research fellow in the School of Computing and
Mathematical Sciences at the University of Greenwich.
“In the last 10 years many organisations have promoted
privatisation, invariably through a concession or lease
arrangement on the French model (sometimes described as a
public-private-partnership – (PPP), as the way forward for
urban water supply and sanitation. This is the position
taken, understandably, by the multinational water companies,
and is the dominant view of the World Bank.” (Pg 6).
“The privatisation of water takes many forms. Sale to the private sector of the complete system has only been done in the UK. Most common is the French model, which involves concessions or leases under which the private contractor collects all the revenues for a water service, carries the cost of operating and maintaining it, and keeps the surplus as a profit.”. (Pg 8).
Are you aware, Prime Minister, that under Sandra Lee’s Local Government Bill the management and operation of Auckland region's water services could be combined into one big water company? YES or NO?
United Water, the water multinational consortium could then potentially get a 15 year contract to manage, operate and make private profit from publicly owned water services infrastructure, for the whole Auckland region.
Far-fetched? Please read on.
The Local Government Bill will allow for such a combination of water services as follows:
"129 Restrictions on exit from delivery of water supply and wastewater services
(3) This section does not prevent- - .....
(d) 2 or more territorial authorities or council-controlled organisations arranging to combine the management and operation of services for reticulated water supply, sewerage, or sewage treatment."
THE BIRCH REPORT RECOMMENDS PUBLIC-PRIVATE- PARTNERSHIPS FOR BOTH WATERCARE AND METROWATER.
Auckland City, the
largest of all the Councils in the Auckland region, now has
water privatisation openly on their agenda.
The Birch Report, released 14.12.2001 stated:
"Suggest Council investigate the possibility of using a public- private- partnership model for Metrowater and Watercare."
(Pg 48 of the Birch Report - down load from: www.akcity.govt.nz)
The following resolutions were passed by the Auckland City Council following discussion of the Birch Report at a special meeting of the Finance and Corporate Business Committee (19.12.2001).
"BX. That the Council confirm its interest in the possibility of some private sector participation in appropriate infrastructural projects as a means of helping ensure the completion of infrastructural projects which might otherwise lack funding sources.
BY. That the Chief Executive provide Council with more information on national and international developments in this area and in particular Australian experiences with a view to helping the Council develop some guidelines on what might be appropriate infrastructural projects that could be considered for a public/private partnership approach and with a view to developing some guidelines on how competitive private sector participation might take place with some of the city's infrastructural projects."
(Pg 35 Open Minutes Special Finance and Corporate Business Committee 19 December 2001)
5) Is it not true, Prime Minister,
that under Sandra Lee’s Local Government Bill, if passed
into legislation as currently worded, United Water, the
water multinational consortium with a 30 year contract
with the Papakura District Council, could then potentially
get a 15 year contract to manage, operate and make private
profit from publicly owned water services infrastructure,
for the whole Auckland region? YES or NO?
6) Do you accept that the stated policy of the Labour Party on water services prior to the 1999 General Election - is in direct contradiction to the current wording of Section 129 of Sandra Lee’s Local Government Bill : (Pg 76)
"Restrictions on exit from delivery of water supply and wastewater services - (3) (b) ii, and (c), and that any Labour MP who supported passing this Bill as currently worded would be helping to legislate against Labour Party policy?
YES or NO?
(Please particularly note the Labour party answer to Question 3 below.
Response to the Water Pressure Group
“Survey of Political Parties on the provision of water/wastewater services”
This response was prepared on behalf of the Executive of the Auckland Regional Council of the New Zealand Labour Party.
(26 October 1999) Andrew Beyer Auckland Regional Organiser New Zealand Labour Party.
(A full copy of the Water pressure Group’s survey and the Labour Party’s response is at the end of this letter.)
WPG Question 2 “Does your party consider that the way in which water and wastewater systems are funded and managed in New Zealand needs to be restructured, and if so, broadly along what lines, and why?"
Labour Party answer: "The provision of
water and wastewater services should be managed and funded
to retain access and affordability to the services by all.
WPG Question 3 "Does your party intend to support
any changes at central government level which would give
local bodies greater power or ability to commercialise,
privatise, or contract out essential public services such
Labour Party answer: "No."
WPG Question 4 “Does your party accept that the process
of commercialisation of publicly owned assets and
utilities into State Owned Enterprises was a precursor to
the privatisation of those assets, at national level, while
at a local level the commercialisation of local government
assets into local Authority Trading Enterprises (L.A.T.E.s)
is heading down the same path to privatisation?
Labour Party answer: We recognise that a number of formerly publicly owned and operated assets and utilities have been first commercialised and then privatised. We do not see that there is a necessary or inevitable link between the two.
We recognise the strong public
demand for public and civic assets to be administered and
managed efficiently, and some commercial procedures assist
with. We detect no strong public demand for privatising
further public or civic assets.
WPG Question 6
“Does your party support the view that water services
should ultimately be privatised?”
Labour Party answer: “We do not support privatising water services.”
7) Do you agree that for all
Labour MPs to keep faith with the public, and to keep
Labour promises on water services, that the Local
Government Bill, must be amended in such a way to make it
‘watertight’ against all and any forms of water
privatisation including public-private-partnerships,
‘contracting out’, ‘franchising’, ‘concessions’ etc.?
YES or NO
8) Do you accept that any
Labour MP who does not support such an amendment to the
Local Government Bill to make it ‘watertight’ against all
and any forms of water privatisation including
public-private-partnerships, ‘contracting out’,
‘franchising’, ‘concessions’ etc, would be seen to be
breaking Labour policy on water services and would be
regarded by the Water Pressure Group as a sellout? YES
the Water Pressure Group (Auckland)