Scott Simpson MP and Mayor Len share their views
The Informer caught up with our National Party elected Member of Parliament, Scott Simpson, and with our Mayor, Len Salt, a few days before Christmas, in different locations.
We spoke to Scott on the day after the Hamilton West election results where National Candidate, Tama Potaka won, defeating Labour’s candidate. We were keen to get Scott’s comments on Three Waters and attending COPs 27 in Egypt. Scott is also the Opposition’s spokesperson on the Environment.
Scott on current political situation.
“Hamilton has been a weak weather set. We did hold both Hamilton seats and we lost both Hamilton seats in the last election. But I believe the Hamilton West results on 10 December, are an indicator to the landscape in the rest of the country.
There is an increasingly toxic response to the current government. A lot of people feel betrayed; we are no longer one population and one people. Through policies hurriedly established, groups form that are divided against each other, and people are set against one another. Too much money is spent on pet projects. So much of the Covid 19 budget was spent not on covid matters at all. It was a corrupt process. Talented people who can see better opportunities offshore, are leaving this country.
Scott - Three Waters and Co - Governance:
From people generally, there is a lot of cynicism. Other councils have been very vocal in their opposition. I had hoped our Council (TCDC) would be a vocal opponent. Our region will be worse off under the Three Waters proposals; the Coromandel rate payers will end up paying twice. We are part of Entity B which includes 22 district councils. We will have little or no say. So in areas where spending hasn’t occurred, their water system upgrade will be prioritised. We have made decent investment in the coromandel but we will end up paying in Entity B for those who have not been investing in their water quality and quantity future. That’s why our council should be very vocal in their opposition. Other councils have been leading the charge.
We will be losers. It is done for now. The Government has used their absolute majority to push this through. It was only labour who voted for or this. The Maori party did not and neither did the Greens - they voted against it. Nania Mahuta has a lot of peer influence. This is an agenda driven initiative – a well- designed, state-censored theft of rate payer assets brought into the controlling entity that has a co-governance arrangement. There are no democratically accountable representatives. We now have taxation without representation.
We had the ‘ultra genius’ proposition where they (Labour) were going to try and entrench aspects of this legislation that would mandate any future law change could only occur with a 60% majority in Parliament, or public referendum. However, they were forced to back down because by law, they had to bring it back to Parliament. There was such a public outcry, they were forced to back off.
I cannot support Co-Governance, other than where there are Treaty settlements involved. There is no place for Co – Governance in the agencies of state, yet this government wants Co-Governance in everything. It begs more questions than I have answers.
We have made our position very clear. We will after the next election, being substance over form.
We will form a government with the ACT Party. We had a formal coalition. Environmental issues are mainstream. In terms of Three Waters, we will repeal and replace this legislation as soon as we have an opportunity to do so.” We need to bring some balance and protective policies to the portfolio of the Environment.
Scott - the COPs Conference: United Nations (UN) climate summits are held every year, for governments to agree steps to limit global temperature rises.
They are referred to as COPs, which stands for "Conference of the Parties". The parties are the attending countries that signed up to the original UN climate agreement in 1992.
COP 27 is the 27th annual UN meeting on climate. It took place in Egypt in November.
“It’s easy to be cynical about these international conferences. I have been to two of them now. There is merit in having all the key stakeholders and key decision-makers in one place.
Q: Was there consensus on anything?
“One of the things they have agreed on is loss and damages; they have agreed on this.
This is shorthand for the position that developed countries have built their wealth on fossil fuels. Now, we are are saying to the underdeveloped world that you are no longer able to use fossil fuels. You have to use renewables. The consensus on this issue was that it was agreed that ‘the developed nations need to pay loss and damage to the under-developed nations’.
Q. How will that work? “The decisions as to what amount of compensation is made from which country and to whom and when? That was not really discussed.
Every country on the planet has a different emission footprint. Every country has a different priority when it comes to energy. But the big focus of our endeavours will be to hold each other accountable. For example, countries have to look at how their electricity is generated, or how their steel is made. We can’t sustain a, ‘we have ours, they have theirs,’ approach.
One of the actions will be that countries will place carbon border controls on imported produce into their economies. That means, if you don’t account for your carbon footprint in your economy, we will do it for you. I would rather we do our own accounting instead of another country imposing a levy. We need to do it in a way that is not detrimental to the producing of primary products in New Zealand.”
Q. How will that happen? “Reducing emissions is important. We have to bend the curve. Farmers need to feel they are a part of things, not being punished by these actions. We have a large agricultural component of output in our area - a lot of dairying in the Hauraki Plains and on the Coromandel. And in the south of the electorate, we have intensive horticulture, sheep and beef country. Land use has changed.
Q: What is your gauge on positivity out there? “I noticed at the Field Days that people are being far more careful with their money. More economic challenges are coming for everyone. There were less people. The other thing I noticed was universal discontent with the current government. Mainstream media is completely disconnected from the people; they want to impose their opinion on policy in a way that doesn’t reflect the mood in the country
Concluding: The good news is that I have been selected as the candidate for the National Party for next election. I love being the Coromandel voice in Parliamant and I love working to effect change. But I never take it for granted, it is something to which I need to give my all.”
Mayor Len Salt on Three Waters:
I am one of the team and you know when I make a statement, I am one of a team of ten people.
Our Council (TCDC), like many other councils, sees a need for water reform and we have always been clear on that. We would have preferred to have a model which gave a greater voice to individual councils and greater control of the decision-making process. Prior to the recent local body elections this process was already well underway. I am not seeing any changes coming down the track. I was very eager to see the outcome of the select committee’s deliberations with the 88,000 submissions.
They have done their deliberations and we just have to make the most of what we have got.
Water is long-term across generation funding - 50 years life span. Three Waters is designed to make that funding available to build stuff that we can’t do on our own.
We will continue to lobby government by continuing to lobby Entity B to ensure that we get priority to our district which constitutes 22 different councils. “
Q: How do you think you compare with other councils?
“We have fairly significant challenges in terms of our coastline and our geography. We have a huge summer population and small ratepayer base that has to pay for all of that infrastructure. We are hoping to receive some of the advantages that Three Waters is designed to deliver to smaller councils will come as an advantage to us – the Coromandel Peninsula.
We are facing a $794 million spend over the the next thirty years without Three Waters.
When we looked at the burden we are faced with, that has to be taken into consideration.
That was the way Three Waters was presented. It is supposed to even the playing field. Those with say, access to water supply and with a consistently higher population, their burden would be shared with all the councils and tier access shared. These with higher costs would carry less of the weight.
Whether the Three Waters structure that has been put in place is the right model, well, we have questions about that. That is the legislation we are working under now and the machinery is well underway. There are some collective rural supplies in our district. One is Hahei for example. There maybe some distinctive advantages that they may not have to carry the burden of running their own water supply. Once we see how this shapes up, there are opportunities for benefits for our water infrastructure.”
Q: How does the lobbying you mention work? At present, we go to the regional transport committee and we lobby for the funding we need, and we will do the same thing with Three Waters. Those relationships with the people in the district have already begun. We need help with our water infrastructure as we develop more (tourism, housing) and our population grows. Our current water supply will get to the point where it will not service the people of the Whitianga township for example. We have had the water supply investigation, as a result of the drought we experienced back in 2019 and 2020, via the Residents and Ratepayers Association. Consent has been extended regarding water treatment; so we can process eight cubic metres a day. That won’t be enough for the regular use in Whitianga, if we have a retirement village and large Medical Centre.
The secret to all of this is preparation. We have to be working well in advance which is what we have been doing for a while.
Because of Mercury Bay’s population peaking to ten times the normal during summer, (and there are other res in the same situation on the Coromandel), we should be getting increased funding and increased compensation as a part of the Three Waters roll out. I have raised this with Minister nania Mahuta. We keep pushing this and we think it has been overlooked by the current Government. We have to continually make that message loud and clear with the Government.
There’s still quite a lot for work to be done on the billing model; that is – what will our current assets and investment in water to date be worth and what is the value of remaining work to be done? We don’t have full details on how that’s going to work. A lot of our work is to implement the decisions of central government. We are governed by the Local Government Act. It is our job to deliver those pieces of legislation at local and district level. We don’t have a lot of flexibility in that.”
Q. How will Co-Governance work for Three Waters? “It’s part of the structure. We already have a good relationship with the iwi in the Hauraki Coromandel district. Their priority and our priority is aligned; preservation of our natural resources and an efficient and effective delivery of water. I don’t have any concerns about Co-Governance in terms of Three Waters legislation and in other matters under discussion.
The key issue for me is - What will benefit our people.”