The Whangarei District Council has voted to accept a $9.48m “Better Off” payment from central government as part of its Three Waters reform package. This is despite the council being a strong critic of Three Waters and one of three councils taking legal action in the High Court against the government.
The Whangarei District Council has approximately $1.4 billion of water assets that would be transferred to a new water entity.
Cr. Vince Cocurullo’s motion to not apply for the Better Off funding was rejected by a five to eight vote.
“I put the motion to reject the funding as a matter of principle. Either we accept three waters or we don’t. We have to date been a strong voice against Three Waters – we are only one of three councils taking the government to court to try to stop what is nothing more than theft of community assets. We are told that accepting this money will not affect our ability to speak out against the government, but I am long past accepting the government’s word. Clause 2.10 of the funding acceptance agreement says;
‘The Recipient must not at any time do anything that could reasonably be expected to have an adverse effect on the reputation, good standing or goodwill of DIA [Department of Internal Affairs] or the New Zealand Government. The Recipient must keep DIA informed of any matter known to the Recipient which could reasonably be expected to have such an effect.’
That is very clear. By accepting this money we have sold our right to criticise the outrageous actions of this government.
We should be better than accepting a $9.48m payout in return for our principles. And let’s be clear what this money can be used for. It cannot be used for infrastructure or other essential services. In fact, the money can only be spent on projects that the Central Government want to promote.
We should be sending the government a message that our principles cannot be bought. Our focus should be on stopping the $1.4 billion theft of our community assets.
“Unfortunately, some councillors lack the conviction to see this fight through. I stand firm against Three Waters and my silence cannot be bought.”
Those voting to accept the ‘Better off’ payment were:
For: Mayor Mai and Crs Couper, Benney, Innes, Peters, Connop and Cutforth.
Against: Crs Cocurullo, Halse, Deeming, Reid, Martin and Golightly.
Absent: Cr Murphy