Three Waters could turn people off local body politics or inspire protest candidates, expert says

Dr Andy Asquith is a local government expert. [File photo]

David Unwin/Stuff

Dr Andy Asquith is a local government expert. [File photo]

A local government expert thinks frustration at Government reform could turn people off local politics, or even bring out protest candidates.

The next local body elections are scheduled for October 8, 2022.

A large issue for councils in 2020 was reforms to drinking, waste and storm water regulations, which have now been made mandatory.

Departing Southland District deputy mayor Ebel Kremer said future councillors would always have the mandate in the back of their minds.

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The Government will establish a working group of local government, iwi and water industry experts to figure out how four new water entities would be governed, as councils look set to lose control of their water assets.

Local government expert Dr Andy Asquith said the Government had run roughshod over the councils.

Three Waters reform could bring out protest candidates in the local body elections, Asquith said.

However, there could be more people bowing out of local politics because they saw it as pointless, he said.


Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta provides details on the amalgamation of Aotearoa’s water services. Video first published on June 30, 2021.

Asquith did see the merit in the reforms though, and said councils had been asleep at the wheel for thirty years in terms of water infrastructure.

Another Havelock North, where four people died, and 5000 people became sick after a campylobacter contamination in 2016, was “waiting to happen”, Asquith said.

Kremer had previously planned to run for mayor in 2022, but cited personal reasons for his decision to leave local politics this year.

Cr Ebel Kremer, left, at a Southland District Council meeting in 2017. [File photo]

John Hawkins/Stuff

Cr Ebel Kremer, left, at a Southland District Council meeting in 2017. [File photo]

He did not think Three Waters would be a crucial influencer for people who wanted to enter local body politics.

“I would hope there’s more to local politics than just Three Waters.”

People stood for various reasons, including the wellbeing of their community and district, Kremer said.

Councils did more than infrastructure, like open spaces, and while infrastructure was important, “I would be surprised if people stand [for election] on just whether a government mandated a particular issue,” he said.

People who stood for local government to override central government were doing so for the wrong reasons, Kremer said.

The Three Waters reform could dishearten some people from getting into local politics, but Kremer did not agree central Government had ridden roughshod with the policy.

The concern for Kremer with the reforms was “not providing councils with an opportunity to consult”, he said.

Central government has always had the ability to mandate, and future councillors would always have that in the back of their minds, Kremer said.

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