26 October 2021

Extinction Rebellion is a club of self-congratulating sociopaths

The passive aggressive militant wing of the Green Party - Extinction Rebellion (XR) - is looking to disrupt Wellington... yes Wellington... in the next few days, to make its latest "point" that nobody is taking climate change sufficiently seriously. 

However, it is literally impossible to appease this group of sociopaths, who follow on from the British equivalent that has been generating a lot of news, because of their passive aggressive blocking of major roads, stopping people going about their lawful business and generating MORE emissions due to the queues and idling of vehicles as a result of their aggression.

You see XR isn't a protest group intended to win public opinion, or change public policy, it exists to disrupt and it exists to generate mayhem.  IR isn't, of course, a terrorist group, because it doesn't intend to kill and destroy property, but it DOES act in ways that may consequentially result in people's death and it harms their property.  UK IR founder, Roger Hallam admitted several weeks ago that he would block an ambulance carrying a dying patient, without blinking.  This is full-scale sociopathic misanthropic behaviour.  But why?

In 2019, IR stopped Wellington, extensively disrupting its main bus corridor.  Buses...  XR demands at the time were reported as follows by the NZ Herald:

The Extinction Rebellion movement makes three demands to governments.

Activists want them to "tell the truth" by declaring a climate emergency, to act and halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to create and be led by decisions of a Citizens' Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

So the first has happened, the govt launched a bioversity strategy in 2020, it has a draft Emissions Reduction Plan (which is unnecessary, but still fits into XR's political persuasion) and the only thing that hasn't been done is to set up a "Citizens' Assembly on climate and ecological justice" (which XR, of course, would want to dominate).  New Zealand HAS a citizen's assembly, it's called Parliament, and it elected a majority Labour Government, supported by the Green Party, that buys into XR's philosophy and agenda.

So is XR satisfied? Of course not.  You see it isn't interested in public policy or even using the tools of a liberal democracy to convince people of the merits of their argument.  It's something else perhaps ...


It's a club, it's a social club for angry sociopathic misanthropes, whose hatred for other human beings, their choices and their priorities is absolutely palpable. They don't care what their impact is on others, they have just given up on the processes of a free society of using free speech and the processes of parliamentary democracy to convince the public and decision makers of whatever merits their positions hold. For they have no serious demands, after all when politicians essentially meet their demands, they create new ones, it's endless, because it's not about politics, public policy or even the public. It is about them.

The members join this organisation in part to support a cause, but what they find is a community of like minded people, who share disdain for the general public, for mainstream politics, and they are bound in their misanthropy and their thrill from planning ever more disruptive and extreme activities to bond themselves to each other.  This explains how the Insulate Britain (XR by another name) mob have taken to gluing themselves to the road, which is going from misanthopy to masochism.  It's not rational to do this in relationship to promoting a cause, except by the acclaim it generates within their social circle and associated organisations, like Greenpeace and the Green Party itself. Some members of the public may support their cause, but many will despise them, which they love - for it mirrors what they think of the public.

The media attention they get is gold, because it means they get recognised within their own club and associated like-minded more moderate clubs. That gains social status, for the reward of that is worth it for them. 

You see political and protest groups are social clubs which give members esteem for being more and more staunch and attention seeking. It's what binds radical political organisations that are outside mainstream thought, like communists, fascists, nationalists, religious zealots and the like - and XR IS a group of this-worldly-religious new age misanthropic zealots. Take this from the XR Wellington website:

we condemn racism, and advocate for the impoverished and the non-violation of Papatūānuku. We are people who belong to the Great Pacific Ocean.

Treating the planet as a God, to not be violated and believing they are owned by an ocean is just loopy new age bullshit.  Then ...

We are agitating that there is a return to the etiquette and lore established by the forebears pertaining to our obligations bestowed on us by a greater power. We encourage unified community, folk, and national undertakings.

Only comfortably off, elite, middle-class new age purveyors of mysticism could swallow this quasi-religious nonsense, with a suffix of collectivist hippy talk.

it continues...

Loving kindness to all life and life systems is paramount, it is just that we devote time to mourn the loss of our siblings, of nations, of all life. From utter grief proper action will emerge to truly remedy our condition.

Loving kindness except to human beings peacefully going about their lives, making a living, engaging with family, friends and others. Do they mourn all life? Including the thousands of microbes and tiny insects they kill daily with their bodies? Is this grief just an exercise in reinforced group onanism?

But then the truth comes out...

Disregard and omit accusing and belittling one another, because the real blemish on Papatūānuku’s bountiful countenance is humanity and his exploitation and corruption. We are on a course of discovering and exercising how to ameliorate this affliction, whilst we rectify and perfect the canon of human regulation.

Don't be rude, because we hate humanity using the planet to survive, which is an "affliction". Never fear, they are going to "perfect human regulation".  Where have we heard that before?  Methinks they want a Year Zero

These are sociopaths, they deserve to be ridiculed, laughed at and scorned for their sociopathy. It is a club of well off misanthropes who get pleasure from distressing others, harming them and getting publicity for their extremism. 

So if you see any, just laugh at them, but if they get in your way, recognise it isn't peaceful, it is passive aggression - it is a form of violence to block people's freedom of movement. 

This is what they deserve.... just move them out of the way and get on with life...

oh and don't vote Green, because the entire philosophy of XR is just the Green Party philosophy writ large.  

16 October 2021

Emissions Reduction Plan on transport isn't really about cutting emissions

With the NZ Government releasing its draft Emissions Reduction Plan that it intends to present at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, it's worth reviewing what the Government wants to do to us so it can proclaim bountiful levels of virtue signalling, although New Zealand's significance at this is vastly exaggerated by its politicians. This is all about the USA, China, India, the EU, Russia and Brazil after all

I'll leave aside for now whether the target of "net zero" will actually generate any net benefits or not, for now take it as given that the Government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). I'll also just focus on the transport policy proposals.

There has been much wailing from radical environmentalists about how weak it is, which you might think means you should be relaxed about it. However, you should not, at least in terms of transport policy.

You see it was some years ago that the only economically rational intervention needed to reduce emissions in transport was introduced – the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS effectively puts a cap on emissions across around 50% of NZ’s emissions, including all domestic transport emissions. 

If you fill your car with petrol or diesel, part of the price includes the cost for fuel distributors of buying emission units that you effectively use when you burn fossil fuels.  There is a fixed supply of these units, and Government policy is to reduce this supply over time (although there was a blip lately), so the price will go up. 

As the price goes up, businesses and consumers respond, which for transport means they might change the vehicle the own or use, drive less, drive differently, change modes of transport, or just pay up and save money elsewhere.  

These changes would mean the vehicle fleet would change, or there would be more use of public transport (putting fare revenue up), or more walking and cycling (increasingly the economic merits of improving those facilities), or there will less demand for more road capacity or carparks, or people will make savings elsewhere. As demand evolves, then so will how existing infrastructure and services evolve, as they always have.

However, nobody joins the Green Party trusting individuals and businesses to simply make the best choices and to be free. You join the Green Party because you believe it is ethical and necessary to use the power of the state to compel people to do what you think is best for them. Banning and taxing what is “bad”, subsidising and making compulsory what is “good”, the Greens are fundamentally illiberal, and this Labour Government has outsourced climate change policy to that ideology. After all, the Nnew Labour Party of Jim Anderton Jacinda Ardern is a party of the big mother state.

The proposals here represent the most radical shift in transport policy and regulation of the transport sector in over forty years, taking it away from the current model, which seeks to reflect user decisions and choice, to one that regulates, taxes and subsidises planners' choices.

So let me start by reminding you throughout all of this, NOTHING the CCC proposes here will reduce emissions without using the ETS to reduce the emissions units available (which would put up the price of petrol and diesel). ALL of these proposals below reflect an ideology of central command and control, all for ZERO net impact. 

You might think the Climate Change Commission (CCC) would be focused primarily on reducing emissions, but its strategy for transport is much more than that (p.54):

Decarbonising transport also offers opportunities to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders. Air pollution, crashes and congestion from traffic impose a large cost on our health, environment and economy. For many people and communities, transport is not affordable or accessible. The transition could make transport more inclusive, safe, healthy and resilient, and better support economic activity. 

Now if reducing emissions was seen as generating other benefits that may be all well and good, but this rather glib statement is used to justify a level of intervention in transport policy that has been unheard of in New Zealand for over forty years.  

You might see the link between lower GHG and lower air pollution, but fewer crashes?  For example, reducing the number of road crashes by reducing the amount of driving is like reducing the number of workplace accidents by reducing the number of jobs. Less congestion could ONLY come if there were a significant drop in motorised road traffic, which starts to give you a hint about what this is really all about.

The claim that for “many people and communities” transport is not affordable or accessible is equally glib and nonsensical.  Where's the evidence? Are there chronic problems in people accessing work, school or other facilities? If so you'd think they'd be mass unemployment and businesses struggling to access labour. New Zealand per capita car ownership is amongst the highest in the world.  However, I doubt the CCC thinks owning, let alone using a car is “inclusive” or “safe” or “healthy”.

The CCC's plan focuses on three main strategies to reduce emissions:

1. Reducing reliance on cars and supporting people to walk, cycle and use public transport. 
2. Rapidly adopting low-emission vehicles and fuels. 
3. Beginning work now to decarbonise heavy transport and freight. 

SO let's start...

13 October 2021

Mandatory vaccines?

First let me be clear, I'm in favour of Covid 19 vaccines.  Sure, a tiny minority have severe side effects and a small number of people can't take the Pfizer vaccine (and that's important, because government should not act in ways that are harmful to such individuals), but by and large it is highly beneficial for there to be widespread vaccines to reduce deaths, hospitalisation and illness from Covid 19.

The bigger philosophical and political question is whether they should be compulsory or whether the state and private businesses and citizens have the right to require vaccination status to be demonstrated to access their services or property.  This is where individual rights collide, and the role of the state SHOULD be to ensure the proper delineation between those rights.

For any owners of private property it should be very simple, it should be up to the owner as to whether or not to require vaccination status to enter that property, whether as a customer or not. It is your property after all.  The basis for your decision should be up to you and the public will decide whether or not to go there. Assuming New Zealand achieves vaccination rates in at least the high 80s%, then many will decide that it isn't safe to enter some premises that are laissez-faire about vaccinations, other may be relaxed about doing so. So be it.  It is private property.

What about employment? Any private employer that wants to only hire people who are vaccinated, should feel free to do so, as long as it is explicit in the employment contract that vaccination is required or that the employer may, from time to time, require employees to take preventive steps to protect other employees or the public. This should be clear for any new hires or any existing hires with such a term in their contracts. For existing hires with no such terms, it is problematic to require vaccination, but it is not problematic to take other health and safety measures voluntarily if there is concern about a non-vaccinated employee, or indeed if there is a risk to the business because customers do not want service from a non-vaccinated employee.  Ultimately, a business should not be able to force an existing employee to get vaccinated, but that employee also cannot force the business to act in ways that undermine it.

So what about the state sector?  If it is treated like the private sector, then the same rules should apply to employment. New employees can be required to be vaccinated and existing ones cannot, unless there is provision in their contract to enable it. However, given the state imposes lockdowns on the entire population and businesses because it treats Covid 19 as a national emergency, it seems only reasonable that those that work on the frontline, for the state, in enforcing this, are required to take steps to minimise transmission of Covid 19.

Those working at the border, Police and other emergency services, managed isolation and quarantine all should be vaccinated, as they are at the frontline of the state's strategy to contain Covid.  Beyond that, it is rational for all working in the public health system to also be required to be vaccinated (although it should be possible for private medical professionals to operate, without taxpayer funding, without vaccinations if they so choose).  Taxpayer funded private facilities should be little different, except that a private facility should be able to opt out of receiving taxpayer funds if it wants to operate sans-Covid vaccines.  That's private property rights.

What about everything else? Teachers and school staff should be a matter for the owner of the schools. The state can mandate vaccines for state schools and require those who want to continue receiving taxpayer funding to have such a mandate, but it should not mandate it for fully independent schools (or anyone providing private tuition).

Why does this matter? Because private property rights, contract law and personal sovereignty matter. You should absolutely be able to prohibit anyone from accessing your property, including business, without being vaccinated (or if you so wish, if they are vaccinated), but you reap the consequences if nobody wants to go there.  You should absolutely be able to choose only to hire people who are vaccinated or who are not, but existing employees should not be forced to be vaccinated, unless there is provision in their employment contracts enabling this.  Employers might change the duties of the unvaccinated, and take steps to protect other staff or customers if need be, and if the business loses customers because it doesn't have a fully-vaccinated staff, it might also decide if it needs to make staff redundant as a result, but it shouldn't come to compulsion.  

Further to that, whilst it is entirely consistent with the defence of a country that entry into it can be made dependent on both Covid tests and proof of vaccination, it should not be necessary for citizens or permanent residents (but other options, such as managed isolation, can be used to protect the country from infection). It should also not be necessary to have a "vaccine passport" within the country's borders, except for businesses that choose to use it to enter their property (that includes airlines and bus companies).

So no, there should be no mandatory vaccines for private citizens not employed by the state, nor mandatory vaccine passports to travel internally, but property owners and individuals have every right to impose their own rules on who they allow onto their property, who they hire, trade with and interact with.

You don't have a right to force someone to get vaccinated, but you also don't have the right to force someone to employ or trade with you if you choose not to.

06 October 2021

Taiwan looks like being the critical test of the USA's resolve

Since the death of Chairman Mao, beyond a few moments of tension, the governments of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) (ROC) have, until recently, by and large, accepted the status quo with some degree of comfort.  I'll use their official names because it matters, and because the efforts to control the language emanate from Beijing, and I'd rather treat the two governments the way competing governments for territory have been treated elsewhere - as two sovereign states.
You see the Korean Peninsula has two governments on it, both claim de-jure legitimacy over the entire territory of Korea. The Republic of Korea (ROK) in Seoul and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Pyongyang, both being rivals who have fought to the death to conquer and destroy the other. The DPRK to this day displays its maps including the whole peninsula, as it claims the south is illegally occupied by the United States which governs the south under its "fascist puppet-clique".

China has the same, albeit on a much less balanced scale. The ROK and DPRK both govern roughly similar sizes of territory, if not populations and not remotely economies. The PRC on the other hand is a giant against the minnow of the ROC. Like its ideological comrades in Pyongyang, the PRC has never treated the territory of the ROC (Taiwan) as anything other than renegades that need reunification into the motherland.  The ROC on the other hand is barely the ROC at all. Brave but unrealistic rhetoric of "retaking the mainland" faded away after the semi-fascist President Chiang Kai-Shek died in 1975, given the US stopped seriously thinking about assisting in that endeavour after the early 1950s.  Very few in Taiwan now think that the ROC will once again fly its flag over Nanjing and replace the PRC, what they really want is to be left in peace, which is only reasonable.

ROC (Taiwan) today is a sovereign state that is in so many ways unlike the stultifying military state of Chiang Kai-Shek, being a vibrant liberal democracy, open economy and basic freedoms that are absent under the PRC.  Whether or not people in Taiwan want to declare formal independence and unshackle themselves from the legacy of the ROC wouldn't change how they manage their own affairs, except for one shadow overhanging them - the PRC's demand that they succumb to its control.

Xi Jinping has clearly made a play, far beyond the rhetoric of previous PRC leaders, to take military steps to take (not retake, as the communists never had it) Taiwan and the islets under its control.  Let's be clear, the PRC never revoked its "right" to do so, but that had largely been rhetorical.  Note also that from the late 1990s through the 2000s relations between the PRC and the ROC improved significantly, with direct trade and investment allowed, along with direct mail, flights and travel permitted. The pre-Xi strategy regarding Taiwan was to treat it like "just another Chinese province" in the hope that this would make people of Taiwan feel more relaxed about a future with the PRC, but also interlink their economies so the economic dependency of Taiwan would shift from exporting to the world, to trading with the mainland.

Xi has now blown all of this up in his quest to take a more aggressive stance.  What is Xi's motivation? Is it to distract from problems at home? Is it to claim glory that even Mao could not succeed?  Is it to demonstrate that the PRC of the 21st century can be the leading power in the Western Pacific and show its neighbours that the USA is no longer in charge?  Probably all of this, and given this it is absolutely essential that the USA, with its allies, make it clear to Xi that none of this will be accepted.

It should be crystal clear to Beijing that any military aggression towards ROC forces, or territory, will be met with a military response in support of the government in Taipei. Why? Because the international order depends on it, and because the consequences of the alternative are likely to be much more destructive to international peace and security, than taking on Beijing on a limited scale.

What matters?

1.  International rule of law and the value of peace: The PRC can proclaim endlessly that Taiwan is an "internal affair", and there is no shortage of proclamations from Beijing about the principle of "non-interference in each others' internal affairs" (a principle Beijing has broken more than once in many countries), but fundamentally ROC (Taiwan) is de-facto and de-jure an independent sovereign state. It has all of the characteristics of a sovereign state, and only lack extensive international formal diplomatic recognition SOLELY because the PRC prohibits it. The Cold War saw most countries recognise the PRC when the PRC and ROC were in diplomatic competition, because the PRC was more useful as a bulwark against the USSR.  Since the end of the Cold War, the growth in the PRC economy has meant this has continued to be more important than ROC (Taiwan).  The ROC dropped the insistence of choosing between Beijing and Taipei for diplomatic relations, but the PRC continues to bully the international community into the legal fiction that the ROC (Taiwan) isn't a sovereign state and has no rights that Beijing does not "let" it have.   So from that, the idea that any government can use military force to address its dispute with another government is unacceptable under international law and the UN Charter.  

Furthermore, it doesn't even matter if the PRC treats the ROC (Taiwan) as its own, it does not justify military force to win an internal dispute. The reality that Beijing knows is that the ROC (Taiwan) is independent, because it acts independently.  Countries cannot be allowed to just declare that they have the right to inflict force on another sovereign entity to take its territory.  It's a norm of international law, and if the PRC wants to be a respected member of the international community, the latter must make it clear than attacking ROC  (Taiwan) territory is an unacceptable risk to international peace and security (even though Beijing would veto any action in the UN Security Council.  The message must be loud and clear that no power can just exercise force to take territory and try to overthrow government that it doesn't like. Russia did the former with barely a blink internationally, under the Obama era, Biden cannot let this happen to Taiwan.

2. Dissuading further aggression:  If the PRC can "get away" with taking parts of the territory under the control of ROC (Taiwan) or go further, then it will embolden it to go further. It has territorial claims of India and Pakistan, and of course its ongoing active claims in the South China Sea.  There is little sense that Beijing is expansionist in the way the USSR was, but the willingness to use military force (and the likely casualties from that) if not resisted by forces outside Taiwan will generate new interest in settling scores or supporting those that may want to settle scores.  As crazy as it is, this might include the DPRK seeing Beijing as willing to back it, once more, in an attack on the ROK.  Intervention is about deterring more military force. If Beijing takes Taiwan, there are the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands just to its north-east, controlled by Japan, that are claimed by Beijing (and in fact Taipei too). Expect them to be under pressure, and if the US wouldn't defend Taiwan, would it really defend the Senkaku Islands? If not, how vulnerable would Japan feel and how abandoned by the US?

3. Pax Americana remains intact:  Since 1945 the Pacific has been dominated by the peace established by US victory in WW2. The USSR had limited impact on that, but the PRC wants to remould the international order to suit its needs, one of those is to expand its sphere of influence and to demonstrate that it is the leading naval and air power in East Asia.  If the US demonstrates that its commitment to Taiwan's defence is toothless, then it will be a transformative end to Pax Americana.  The implications of that aren't just in the US feeling shame and impotent, but the reaction of other governments in Asia.  The ROK, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Vietnam will all wonder if they are safe in a Pax Sinica (Marxist-Leninist). Given the PRC has WMDs, there would be some fear in Seoul, Tokyo and Delhi that the US's nuclear umbrella has just folded up somewhat, and more disconcertingly they should all develop or expand their own.  ANY of this will aggravate the international order in Asia, as a nuclear armed ROK and expanded nuclear India will raise temperatures and risk.  Japan will be unlikely to embrace nuclear weapons, but it will want to expand militarily to deter the risk the PRC will take islands near Taiwan that are under dispute, next.  

So if you worry less about Taiwan, worry more about what is next, Asian powers seeking to contain the PRC with WMDs.  Beyond that must be the effects this has on US power elsewhere, such as in Europe. 

4. Liberal democracies must be protected from tyrannies: It is almost least important, but morally it is easily the point that pulls the hardest at emotions. ROC (Taiwan) is a vibrant, liberal democratic capitalist country of free people. It demonstrates that China can be a liberal democracy, and that Beijing's long held excuse that China "cannot become a democracy" because it would be "ungovernable".  ROC (Taiwan) has, like the ROK, transformed itself from essentially a dictatorship into a free and thriving liberal democracy. It should not be able to have that destroyed by the world's deadliest dictatorship (60 million Chinese killed through famine and executions in the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution).  ROC (Taiwan) has been a model international citizen, it has been peaceful, productive and constructive internationally, it represents values that the US should hold dear, and which promote peace and development globally.  If Beijing has snuff that out with only some stern words from Washington, then Washington will have abandoned any pretence about leading by some moral imperative.

So there should be clear solidarity with ROC (Taiwan).  It should be no doubt at all that if the PRC attacks military forces in Taiwan or any territory, that there will be intervention to counter this, and that unilateral sanctions will be imposed on the PRC by liberal democracies. The UN is toothless on this, not least because the PRC has a veto in the UN Security Council.

There are lots of reasons to be critical, historically, of Pax Americana after 1945, with a good list of mistakes made, and behaviour that is not becoming of a country that proclaims itself to be in favour of freedom.  However, there is little doubt that a world led by a flawed semi-free liberal democracy is better than one led by a Marxist-Leninist one-party state.  

(Oh and don't doubt that the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is much more on the side of the USA than the PRC)

05 October 2021

So what's an alternative to the Three Waters Reform?

I’ve already written critically of the Three Waters reforms in a polemical way.  It's rather curious that Nanaia Mahuta is so committed to these reforms given she has no record in her political career of ever having passionate views about structural reforms of any sectors of the economy.  You wouldn't know what she thinks about energy, transport or communications sectors, so why water? Surely it can't be because of the transfer of some power to Iwi under the new mega-water "entities"? 

Regardless of her motivations, I think the problem definition is largely correct.  The status quo has failed appallingly, and that status quo is combination of leftwing ideology about the "power of general competence" of local government (and it being committed to "economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing") and rightwing ideology about supporting localisation of power (although that power still lies with politicians, apparently local politicians that fewer people vote for are more accountable than MPs).  

Yet it is abundantly clear that the options assessed (at least from the public documents) were remarkably narrow minded, apparently only considering:

Sector-led reform: This would be returning to the philosophy of the “power of general competence” that local government is capable of reforming itself to address the problems listed. This seems unlikely and is in effect a “status quo” option.

National Three Waters Fund:  This option is frankly bizarre. It is touted as being similar to the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF), yet there are so few useful parallels. The NLTF is funded mostly from user fees on motorised road users, through fuel tax and road user charges.  There are NO centrally collected user fees on water users, and many local authorities don’t even impose user fees at all. Furthermore, the NLTF fully funds the State Highway Network, which is central-government owned and operated, there is no equivalent in water.  This looks like a brain fart from some politician.

Regulatory reform only: This has its merits, if only because there is poor oversight of what territorial authorities do with water already, but existing governance structures range widely from being promising (Watercare Services) to being very poor. This is unlikely to be enough.  

It might be too much for me to expect a Labour Government to have assessed privatisation, even if it dismissed it on grounds of being contrary to the policies and principles of the Labour Party, but it should have been included to see what the benefits and risks would be.

So assuming privatisation per se would fall on deaf ears, here’s my quick and dirty alternative. Quite simply it is to commercialise and transfer control of water assets to ratepayer or consumer owned companies, those entities would carry the local authority debt associated with those assets. My proposal is:

1. A water sector regulator would be set up, which in association with the Commerce Commission, would oversee the water entities, particularly the transition of the reform, but also ensure that these monopolies don’t abuse their position, and are accountable for the effects of failure on consumers and property owners.  Yes yes, I would MUCH prefer some consumer association that would test water quality and seek transparency in these entities, but that's too much to hope for.  A regulator is likely to be necessary at least for the first five years, particularly to enforce some basic standards of drinking water.

2. All territorial authorities would be required to transfer fresh, waste and stormwater assets into water companies.  This would also include debt associated with those assets (which would have to be agreed with the Commerce Commission, to stop local authorities transferring unreasonable levels of debt to the new entities). These companies would be at arms-length control from territorial authorities, with independent boards prohibited from taking direction from councillors as to specific capital spending decisions. The companies would be required to make a return on capital and pay taxes. This would help avoid both over and underspending on infrastructure and remove politics from decisions around water infrastructure. The companies would be required to provide services to end users and to make a profit. They would be allowed to merge and consolidate as they see fit, and if the efficiencies claimed are real (and some no doubt are), this will become abundantly clear as being the right choice. Those that lag and perform 

3. The water companies would have all shares initially owned by the territorial authorities, but within twelve months shares would be transferred either to ratepayers with property serviced by their networks (with some proportionality by those served to different degrees by the three networks) or to consumers (which in some cases is ratepayers at least for stormwater). These shares would be tradeable, although there could be limits on foreign ownership if desired. However, the companies would essentially by owned directly by the public, rather than by local authorities. It would leave accountability at the lowest possible level, those who have paid for it and who own it. It’s actual people power.  I am ambivalent about whether ratepayers or consumers gain shares, and tend to prefer consumers (i.e. those who will be responsible for water bills) take fresh/waste water shares and ratepayers stormwater shares.

4. Water companies would be required to move towards full user pays and rates would be regulated downward. This will include but may not require water metering. Metering is appropriate for fresh and wastewater, but not stormwater, so the water companies would levy consumers for fresh and wastewater (not necessarily property owners), but property owners for stormwater. The charges would be subject to oversight from the Commerce Commission initially to ensure water companies weren’t seeking to gouge consumers. However, EQUALLY important is that territorial authority rates that have been used to pay for any of the three waters are regulated down. That regulation should not be for a one-off reduction, but the Commerce Commission should be required to authorise any territorial authority rates increases above inflation to ensure that territorial authorities are not using the reduction in rates as an opportunity to increase rates to grow other functions.  The net burden on property owners and consumers in each district (adding rates and water charges) will be taken into account.  

5.    Water companies should borrow to fund upgraded infrastructure and recover this from user fees.  Ultimately consumers should pay and as with electricity lines companies, and airports, the Commerce Commission should have oversight over the financial performance 

Opposition to the Three Waters is well justified, but taking power away from local authorities is a good thing. Yet proposed opaque governance structure, which inexplicably adds the Iwi element, is not a recipe for significant efficiencies going beyond some economies of scale and bargaining power in procurement. The forced amalgamation is unlikely to be the best outcome, because neither the Minister nor DIA officials are likely to know what's best.

So Three Waters reforms should stop, but the need for reform remains.  However, even ACT has taken a very pathetic, limp approach to this issue.