VAN - Valley Action Network
12 June, 2010
VAN - Valley Action Network is backing a protest against water privatisation at Hutt City Council Building at 12 noon today.
VAN is expressing opposition to both the Local Government Act Amendment Bill and to water meters, and is simultaneously launching its election campaign for Hutt City Council.
"Privatisation of water is the last thing we need", said VAN organizer Grant Brookes. "Hutt residents are already facing the squeeze from GST increases, and from mortgage and rent rises, while our incomes are threatened by global economic woes.
"Water privatisation will only add to the financial strain facing grassroots Hutt residents. It won't save our natural water resources. International experience suggests that the profit motive encourages private owners to sell more water, not conserve it, and to cut costs on fixing leaky pipes.
"The so-called 'protection' against water privatisation in our current law is full of holes", added Grant.
The Local Government Act passed by the Labour government states that a council "must not divest its ownership or other interest in a water service". But a council may transfer assets to a "Council Controlled Organisation".
"Councils can then sell off 50 percent of the so-called 'Council Controlled Organisation' to private investors", Grant said. "This kind of "public-private partnership" is the most common form of water privatisation world-wide.
"As if the current law wasn't bad enough, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide wants to extend the length of time that companies can manage water from 15 to 35 years. The bill will also allow private companies, as well as the so-called 'Council Controlled Organisations', to own water utilities.
"But businesses looking to get into in water supply will want a customer base and a product they can sell. That's where domestic water meters come in. Water meters enable water to be sold to households by the litre. They're the linch-pin of privatisation.
"Today, there's a small army of consultants lobbying councils around New Zealand to introduce water meters.
Hutt City councillors, and the current mayor, have expressed interest in water meters, while distancing themselves from introduction at this stage because they know meters are unpopular.
But Capacity Infrastructure Services, the water management company for Wellington and Lower Hutt, is recommending universal water metering right now.
"Capacity is half-controlled by Hutt City", said Grant. "According to its latest Annual Report, the Council 'has significant influence over it'. What influence is the Council exerting over water meters?
"I don't think we can rely on our current Council to stop water meters and privatisation. Residents need to come together to take action. Protests, meetings and submissions on Rodney Hide's bill are needed to raise awareness and put pressure on decision-makers.
"In Auckland, where water meters were introduced from 1991, some residents engaged in civil disobedience by organising disconnection of the meters.
"But while grassroots action is needed, Hutt City residents can also use their vote this October to stop water meters and privatisation."
VAN - Valley Action Network, is standing for election in October with a policy of opposition to water meters and water privatisation.
For more information, contact:
Organiser, VAN - Valley Action Network
organiser (at) huttvan (dot) org (dot) nz
021 053 2973