Was New Zealand's UN water vote flop due to privatization plans?

The Alliance Party has criticized a decision by New Zealand delegates at the United Nations to abstain from a vote to have safe drinking water and sanitation recognized as a basic human right.

Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says that fortunately for the 884 million people worldwide who don’t have access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion who lack access to basic sanitation, 122 countries did vote in favour of the resolution.

“As a result, no thanks to New Zealand’s delegation, the right to water and sanitation is now recognized by the United Nations as a human right.”

Ms Murray says the New Zealand representative’s excuse that “the text had been tabled before the delegation had had an opportunity to consider its provisions” was difficult to fathom.

“It is a very simple concept. People need water and adequate sanitation to live. Anything that is a necessity of life should be a basic human right. ”

In introducing the resolution the Bolivian representative stated that some 1.5 million children under five years old died each year from water and sanitation related diseases.

Ms Murray says the Alliance Party wonders if the New Zealand decision was influenced by the privatization agenda for water that is becoming apparent in New Zealand.

“If everyone is entitled as of right to water, it will restrict profiteering by global corporations taking control of our water under National’s privatization agenda and free trade deals.”

That the USA abstained from the vote was no doubt another major factor, as it seems as far as the National Government is concerned, where the USA goes New Zealand follows.

ENDS

For more information, contact Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray on 0211672843

No Hide(ing) from Water Privatisation

The Alliance is 100 percent opposed to the creeping privatisation of local facilities, especially water, that is being promoted by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.

Alliance Economic Development Spokesperson Quentin Findlay says that Mr Hide was unsuccessfully trying to conceal the threat of water privatization under the Local Government Amendment Act.

“Rodney can’t hide the fact that private business concerns are going to have the power to turn off the taps for a considerable period of time under the amendments to the Local Body Act.”

Mr Findlay said that the new Act was a “Trojan Horse” that handed multinational companies like the Suez Company and Veolia Environment S.A. access into a New Zealand “water market.”

“Experience around the world shows once private companies are involved in water provision, costs incurred by the taxpayer actually increase. In England, where privatization had occurred, tariffs had increased by 47% in nine years.”

Mr Findlay says the Alliance Party did not want private-public partnerships in water.

“Basic infrastructure such as water and electricity should be in public ownership, administered for the public good by democratically elected public bodies. There should be no private profit from public facilities.”

Local Government New Zealand had noted that some local bodies accepted the public-private partnership model as they were not able to extend or repair existing infrastructure.

Mr Findlay said that while such a concern was understandable, the problem could be overcome very easily.

“Simply, the state could maintain an infrastructure organisation which would undertake infrastructure repair or upgrades such as maintaining, replacing or extending water pipes in areas where local bodies had funding or manpower issues. Such a body would be similar to the old Ministry of Works.”

The Alliance would be prepared to break contracts with private firms and take basic infrastructure such as water back into public ownership.

Alliance campaigns against water privatization plan

The Alliance is campaigning to keep water rights in public ownership through local councils.

Alliance Economic Development Spokesperson Quentin Findlay says a proposed local government bill of ACT MP Rodney Hide due to be introduced to Parliament in February 2010 could privatize water.

Mr Findlay says that the bill aims to have public-private partnerships in charge of administering and supplying water.

“This means the public would bear the costs while the private sector would reap the benefits, through management and supply of water.”

“Mr Hide’s proposed bill is simply water privatization, no matter what ‘spin’ he or the National Party tries to put on it. It involves taking water provision out of the hands of councils and community control and placing it into the hands of unelected contractors.”

Mr Findlay says this approach in other countries meant water supply and provision had suffered with a small number of private firms monopolising the process and ordinary people facing increased costs and poor services.

In the UK, public-private partnerships in water had led to increased costs and allegations of corruption. In Bolivia, privatization of water had actually led to a popular revolt.

“The entire push towards public-private provision has little to do with efficiency and more to do with Mr Hide and ACT serving the wishes of their corporate allies. This is a programme that has failed in every country in which it has been tried.”

Mr Findlay said that the Alliance would be looking at operating an online petition and coordinating with other groups to campaign for public control of water.

He says the Alliance when returned to Parliament would immediately lobby for the public ownership and community control of the country’s water supply and provision.

Dunedin City water plans will unleash a torrent of resistance

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UPDATE: Dunedin City Councillor reacts to Alliance:
“Oh for God’s Sake”

The Alliance Party says proposals to push forward user pays water metering will unleash a torrent of resistance from angry Dunedinites.

The Otago Daily Times today reported that Dunedin City Council has warned getting water for free is a concept the public “needs to get away from”.

Alliance Party spokesperson Victor Billot says that the Dunedin City Council “needs to get away from the concept of ramming through right-wing user pays policies with no mandate.” Continue reading