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Apr 13 2023

Listen: Three Waters? Never heard of it

Gone By Lunchtime (Image: Tina Tiller)

As Chris Hipkins rebrands water reforms, making four entities into 10, Gone By Lunchtime asks whether the changes will be enough to mollify the critics. Plus: Jacinda Ardern’s valedictory speech, reviewed; the Covid-19 settings decision, assessed; crybabygate; and the confiscation of lobbyists’ swipe cards.

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‘Three Waters’ scrubbed from official sites


Following this morning’s announcement of changes to water reforms, most substantially in the shift from four to 10 new regional water entities, the anticipated burying of the “three waters” moniker has been enacted already. Search online for “three waters” and the first two results are these:

Click through, however, and three waters are there none. now auto-forwards to, an addressed registered by Internal Affairs on April 5.

You know it’s not the same as it was.

The DIA site retains the URL, but the front page no longer mentions those pesky “three waters” words, instead heralding the Water Services Reform Programme.

Hipkins said earlier this week the the name change was required because three waters was “a term that has become somewhat confused”. He said: “Let’s call it what it is; it’s about making sure we have affordable water infrastructure improvements.” The words “three waters” and “co-governance” appeared in none of the materials released by the government this morning.

National labels three waters rebrand ‘desperate’, ‘broken’

Image: Archi Banal

The National Party isn’t buying into the government’s claim that its new water infrastructure package is different to “three waters”.

Under the plan, 10 new regional water entities would be up and running by mid-2026. They’d still have the mana whenua representation, so-called “co-governance”, but councils would have more control than they would have under the old proposals.

But National has labelled the new package a “desperate attempt to rebrand” the “toxic” three waters. The party’s local government spokesperson Simon Watts said it was just a new coat of paint on a “broken” set of reforms.

“Adopting ten new entities rather than four makes a mockery of Labour’s repeated claims that four entities was the only way to go and would provide huge economic benefits,” said Watts.

“But the number of entities isn’t what New Zealanders care about – they care about ownership and control, and Labour’s rejigged proposal still locks local communities out of decision making.”

Chris Hipkins today said the involvement of mana whenua didn’t amount to co-governance – though that seems a stretch considering the government has called it that in the past. Watts said it was “divisive… undemocratic and will not lead to better water services”.

Confirmed: NZ is getting Max, a TV ‘super-streamer’ service


We called it, now it’s been confirmed: Max, the Warner Bros Discovery streaming service that’s lost the “HBO” from its title, is coming down under in late 2024. That’s according to CEO David Zaslav, who announced global domination plans at an overnight press event. “It’s the one to watch,” he said, “because we have so many of the world’s iconic and globally recognised franchises. It’s our superpower.”

The Spinoff reported on Max’s expansive streaming service plans last August after the merger of Warner Bros and Discovery, predicting the new streaming service was likely to arrive here in 2024. We also pointed out that it’s probably causing shockwaves at Sky TV, whose SoHo channel and Neon streaming service rely heavily on importing HBO content like Succession, The Last of Us and Barry. When it loses that content will depend on when its contract with HBO runs out.

Max would combine much of Warner Bros Discovery’s content, including HBO, Cartoon Network, Food Network, Warner Bros and its massive slate of movies, as well as news and sport, Zaslav announced. Tiered pricing would range between US$9.99-$19.99. A spokesperson told Newshub: “We plan to roll out Max in key Asia-Pacific territories later in 2024.”

The news comes as a wide range of exclusive Max content is announced to beef up the platform’s offerings. A Harry Potter TV show is coming with controversial author JK Rowling confirmed as executive-producer, Matt Reeves’ follow-up to The Batman, The Penguin, has a trailer, as does a new season of HBO’s resurrected series True Detective starring Jodie Foster and set in the chilly Alaskan winter.

Kate Winslet’s The Regime is coming, as is a TV version of  popular novel The Sympathizer, as well as an animated Gremlins series and a TV version of the popular Will Arnett and Jason Bateman celebrity chat podcast Smartless.

The launch of a new streaming service in Aotearoa is unlikely to be popular amongst TV addicts who are already spoilt for choice and feeling the pinch thanks to the economic downturn. Disney+, Apple TV+ and Netflix have all raised prices in the past six months, while Prime Video, Shudder, YouTube Premium, Acorn, AMC+ and Sky’s streaming services Neon, Sky Sport Now and Sky Go are all fighting over shrinking consumer dollars.

All those options means savvy switching – the art of bingeing a streaming service’s content for a month, then moving onto the next – is fast becoming the norm.

Three waters shake-up: 10 new entities proposed, councils to have ownership

Local government minister Kieran McAnulty at parliament (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The original plan for the government’s controversial “three waters” reforms has been chucked on the policy bonfire.

Prime minister Chris Hipkins has today unveiled a new infrastructure plan that will still, he claimed, see rates reductions across the country.

There will now be 10 new “regionally owned and led” public water entities instead of the planned four. Each will be owned by local councils and entity borders will be based on existing regional areas. That condenses down the existing water services currently operated by all 67 councils.

“These reforms are absolutely essential. Leaving things as they are will mean unaffordable rate bills,” local government minister Kieran McAnulty said.

Each entity will be run by a “professional board”, while “strategic oversight” will be provided by local government representatives from councils along with mana whenua. That sounds like the co-governance element of the original plan that drew criticism from some, including the opposition, but the word “co-governance” itself is not mentioned in the government’s press release (neither, unsurprisingly, is the original “three waters” name).

As with the original plan, there would continue to be an equal number of mana whenua representatives. Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Hipkins said the new plan was “not co-governance and it never was co-governance”. He said there will be an opportunity for people to have a say within local communities in how their water is delivered and their priorities for water.

McAnulty said that, over the last few months, he had been working closely with local government leaders and relevant stakeholders on how to progress New Zealand’s “long overdue water infrastructure reforms”.

The proposed regional boundaries of the new entities
The proposed regional boundaries of the new entities (Image: Supplied)

The refresh of three waters was expected even before Hipkins became prime minister. Under Jacinda Ardern, the debate over the proposed infrastructure plan had become toxic. It was confusing to the general public and, at times, racist, with former local government minister Nanaia Mahuta often left to cop the worst abuse.

As the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan teased ahead of the announcement, the new plan is more than just a cosmetic improvement with a new name – this is a substantive overhaul, with more localised influence from councils. That’s how Hipkins will be pitching it too as he attempts to wash away any memories of the three waters brand.

McAnulty said that concerns around co-governance were barely raised by local councils during a consultation tour earlier this year. New Plymouth was the only council to bring it up, said McAnulty.

Read more: Three Waters, KiwiBuild and the limits of branding

According to the government, the new plan will save each household between $2,770 and $5,400 a year by 2054, on average, within each region. Some areas are set to benefit more, like Northland where households could save as much as $14,820.

The anticipated cost of getting the new plan up and running was up to $185 billion over the next 30 years. “Local councils cannot afford this on their own, and households in some areas could see rates rise up to $9,730 per year by 2054 if we do nothing,” McAnulty said.

The water services entities will be in place, at the latest, from the start of July 26 – but they can proceed before this if ready.

Opposition MPs including Act’s Simon Court have pre-emptively criticised today’s announcement, saying it was effectively the same unpopular three waters proposal but with a new paint job. “Hipkins has been desperate to differentiate himself from Jacinda Ardern but, by reheating and rebranding co-governance, he’s showing he’s no different,” said Court this morning.

Some local mayors, too, have expressed concern. Manawatū mayor Helen Worboys told RNZ she had little confidence the government would have made sufficient changes. “We live in hope, but unfortunately, this looks like it’s going to become an election topic, a political football for the elections coming up later in the year,” she said.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom may be pleased, however. He said that there needed to be more than just the originally planned four entities.

Local government minister Kieran McAnulty at parliament
Local government minister Kieran McAnulty at parliament (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New horror film with local links looks truly terrifying

Talk to Me (Image: Supplied)

A24 doesn’t usually miss when it comes to fear-inducing horror films – and the studio’s latest looks set to continue the trend.

Talk To Me launched to rave reviews at Sundance earlier this year and will be heading to cinemas here on July 27.

Despite being made across the ditch, it has some links to New Zealand. Onehunga hip-hop collective Swidt feature on the soundtrack and Samoan-NZ actor Chris Alosio is in the cast. Above all that, it just looks really good.

You can watch the trailer below.

Three waters revamp to be unveiled today

(Image: Archi Banal)

The long-gestating update of the controversial three waters project will be revealed today.

As teased by the prime minister Chris Hipkins on Tuesday, there will be a new name for the infrastructure project, in part to try dampen the toxicity that has surrounded the “three waters” brand. (As an aside, you should read Duncan Greive’s piece today on the troubles around government brand names).

Hipkins and the local government minister Kieran McAnulty will unveil the details of the overhaul at about 11am this morning.

The opposition, however, has got in early with attempts to derail the refresh. Act’s Simon Court said it was an “insult” to New Zealanders. “New Zealanders aren’t stupid. Whatever way Hipkins tries to spin it, whatever he changes the name to, if the policy still expropriates ratepayer assets and divides New Zealanders by ancestry through co-government then Kiwis won’t have a bar of it,” he said.

The Bulletin: All 17,000 of Wellington’s street lamps at risk of falling

As Aucklanders focus on what fell from the sky and failed to materialise from city leaders in late January, Wellingtonians have confirmation they need to keep looking up. Wellington City Council has admitted all 17,000 of Wellington’s street lamps are at risk of falling because, as Stuff’s Tom Hunt and Justin Wong succinctly put it, the council forgot to factor in the wind.

In February, the council claimed only a “small handful” of the city’s lights were affected by a fault that was causing lamps to droop and, in some instances, fall to the ground. It now admits it knew about the problem as early as 2018. As the Herald’s Georgina Campbell reports, the council’s chief infrastructure officer confirmed she first heard of the problem in February. Campbell asks why officials further down the chain did not escalate this problem, primarily because the associated risk was someone being killed. Mayor Tory Whanau said she was “confident” Wellingtonians could safely go about their business while the council carried out repairs.

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Auckland councillor on the ‘chaotic’ floods and the need for better communication

Wayne Brown is the mayor of Auckland. (Image: Tina Tiller)

An Auckland councillor has described the “chaos” on the night of January 27 as the super city was smashed by unprecedented rainfall, causing devastating flash floods.

The long-awaited report into the emergency response to the anniversary weekend floods was released yesterday. It pretty much criticised everyone involved in the response – though of course acknowledged the hard work of emergency services dealing with a developing situation. However, it noted that communication was poor, the state of emergency should have been declared earlier and said that there was a lack of preparedness for a weather event such as we saw.

Richard Hills, a North Shore councillor, told RNZ it was clear on the night that officials weren’t prepared to deal with something “on the scale and magnitude” of what unfolded.

“A lot was happening behind the scenes, but obviously it was chaotic,” he said. “It just wasn’t communicated that we were there for the city.”

Hills said while he had the luxury of being able to communicate via his own channels and without the need for official advice, he will be putting the pressure on everyone within council to respond to the recommendations of the report. “The report is damning of the political side, staff, management,” he said. “I would just encourage everyone to communicate more. Some of us did it naturally on that night… there does need to be better channels.”

Wayne Brown is the mayor of Auckland. (Image: Tina Tiller)

While the report clearly called out the mayor and other public-facing individuals for a lack of open communication, mayor Wayne Brown has, somewhat ironically, been absent since the report was released yesterday. Aside from a brief statement, he has not been seen – he wasn’t at the press conference yesterday and nor has he fronted to the media since.

The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire has written about that today, saying: “Brown is not being asked to take blame, however. He’s being asked to take responsibility.” That sentiment was echoed by Herald writer Simon Wilson, who has also published a column today calling out the mayor for his lack of visibility over the past 24 hours. In an interview with RNZ this morning, Wilson reflected on the high-vis wearing Bob Parker in the days after the Christchurch earthquake. It was the role, said Wilson, of elected officials to reassure the public. “The politicians are the ones who have to front,” he said.