Here we go again
The scene is set. The players and the situations are in position. Sneaking away in the Coalition government's agenda are the words "corporatise water delivery".
The NZ Herald (7-12-17) reports that the recent Havelock North water inquiry was sparked by the 2016 Havelock North gastro outbreak, which had been linked to four deaths, and to calls for a major overhaul of water supplies, including mandatory treatment.
Media reports that the Government has now written urgently to all mayors and district health boards asking to check the water they are supplying meets current standards after the inquiry revealed 20 per cent of water supplies were not up to standard.
The inquiry viewed the latest data for 2016-17, which showed that the 721,000 people drinking potentially unsafe water was "a significant underestimate".
David Parker, Attorney General, and Environment Minister said the Ministry of Health, as well as local authorities, had "effectively failed" New Zealanders. Of course something should be done, but, to quote a letter writer to the news media in 2014, "Everything nowadays, including vital utility services, is driven by budgets and profits. The goal of providing necessary services has gone out of the window."
So what may be the government's solution to tie in with its infrastructure objective to "corporatise water delivery"? Could it be to take water delivery and quality out of the hands of local bodies and place them into CCOs - Council controlled organisations?Then that's where the financial vultures will pounce. Councils will find that they can gain some money if they sell off such ventures.
In Britain "water companies have been a favourite for big investors - pension funds, private equity firms, and foreign governments since the industry was privatised in 1989. Of the country's 18 water utilities, all but three have been taken over by private consortiums." so commented London Sunday Times on 10 November 2013.
The article also observed that "Successive investors have developed a very lucrative template : load up the firms with debt and rip out giant dividends. To ratchet up returns further, loans often come from off shore vehicles linked to the controlling shareholders. They can collect interest payments so large as to wipe out profits and cut tax to zero. The upshot water companies are cash machines for their owners."
Another part of New Zealand will then be in foreign hands.
- contributed by Michael Clatford, Wellington
Published: December 2017