One council to rule them?
Posted at 1:54pm Sunday 28 Nov, 2021
Wānaka hosted one of the larger Groundswell protests in the country last weekend to hear predictions that Otago would soon by Governed by a single local authority.
Otago Regional Council deputy chair Michael Laws, discussing the Three Waters Reform, warned that the smaller councils would have no purpose to being except to run a few halls and the local library.
About 370 people were involved in the Wānaka gathering, one of almost 70 around the country.
"The reality is that farmers are not against change. We are just against change that is enforced through regulations created with no common sense," Wanaka Groundswell organiser Anna Emmerson said.
In Wanaka the protest started with presentations from speakers to share their stories as well as highlight the issues of the protest.
They included Laws, retired Cardrona farmer Tim Scurr, Emmerson, a Lindis Pass farmer, Gerry Eckhoff, Allan Dippie also and builder Clint Gollop
"This is a government that is determined not to listen to the people that create this country's wealth and who create it still,” Laws said.
He described the government as "a totalitarian administration who are eroding our democratic rights on a daily basis, and a government who is demonising our rural sector because to be honest with you, you have never voted Labour, you never will, so they will isolate you in a corner somewhere to condemn you with false accusations and allegations."
This was also reflected in the speeches from Scurr and Emmerson who highlighted the struggles they have been going through with the Crown Pastoral Land Act reform and what they saw as a lack of the desire from the Environmental Select Committee “to understand how the holistic farm management principles they use on farm can improve the biodiversity of the high country and how our grasslands are a better carbon sink than trees”.
The Government's Three Water moves were also criticised.
"The government has already been advised that their proposed changes will not offer any real financial benefit to the people of New Zealand, a large proportion of our councils have said that they do not support it, yet they have announced that they will mandate it anyway,” Emmerson said.
“We want to work with the government to make this country better, yet you the demonised the rural sector to somehow make you enemies of the state and somehow this country.”
Michael Laws sees Three Waters as a way to take away local government in New Zealand.
"Very soon there will be one council for all of Otago... and the smaller councils will have no purpose to being except to run a few halls and the local library. It is the stripping away of our democratic rights that sees me here today. We want to be able to run our communities, our way, with our knowledge and our understanding. You can't improve the environment or the communities we live in unless that local knowledge is pre-eminent in everything you do."
Gerry Eckhoff and Allan Dippie also highlighted this sentiment with the speeches round off by local builder Clint Gollop requesting our communities to hold fast and for the various groups to work together to ensure that our voice can be heard.