The To Tatou Vai Authority (Water Charges) Bill

To Tatou Vai Authority Water Charges Bill.

The To Tatou Vai Authority (Water Charges) Bill.
Compiled by: Justine Flanagan, Andy Kirkwood.

[www.islandbooth.com/comm/200710-ttv-bill.html].
Contact: [firstName] @ islandbooth.com.

Masthead Logo of water authority To Tatou Vai. Rumour is the device was designed by To Tatou Vai board member Sam Napa, who was initially critical of the Te Mato Vai Project. Local commentators have drawn attention to the similarity between the forms of the logo and those of a fish hook, with a drop of water as ‘bait’.

 

This is a working draft. Published 10 July 2020. Updated 21 Sept 2020.

 

Submissions to the To Tatou Vai Authority Bill 2020

Oral submissions to the select committee were made by landowners, the Grower Community, and Te Vai Ora Maori, 24 Aug 2020. Also by Ngati Kainuku (8 Sept).

Submissions closed 11 Sept 2020.

The select committee is charged with returning a report to Parliament 30 Sept; with the next session beginning 23 Sept.

 

The To Tatou Vai Authority Bill establishes the new Water Authority for the islands of Rarotonga and Aituaki (Cook Islands). It also sets out a system of water access and usage charges, and asserts control over all water sources.

Maori: Ture Tamanako To Tatou Vai 2020

English: To Tatou Vai Authority Bill 2020 (6 July 2020)

First and second reading

The To Tatou Vai Authority Bill was read in the Cook Islands Parliament on the last day of the June-July 2020 session. After lengthy presentations by the Minister the Bill was referred to a select committee.

 


Parliament of the Cook Islands, 8 July 2020, 1pm. Bills begins at 44:90. View on Facebook.


Parliament of the Cook Islands, 8 July 2020, 3pm. View on Facebook.

 

Select Committee Public Meetings

The public were advised of public Select Committee meetings in a release to the Cook Islands News(paper), 22 July 2020. Public notices placed the week proceeding the meetings may have confused the public, as they were formatted as an invitation to Landowners, and included a list of titles - lands included in water catchment areas.
There were also five discrepancies bewteen the public notice and the titles listed in Schedule 3 of the Bill.

Rarotonga

  • Teau-o-Tonga: Tues July 28, 6-8pm, Sinai Hall
  • Puaikura: Wed, July 29, 6-8pm, Calvary Hall
  • Takitumu: Thur, July 30, 6-8pm, Titikaveka Sunday School

To Tatou Vai Authority Bill Submissions

For those not able to attend vaka meetings, submissions on the To Tatou Vai Authority Bill can be made to:

Also see: Water authority won’t make a profit, just cover costs.

To Tatou Vai Authority Bill Select Committee

The members appointed to consult on the Bill, by party, constituency and island are:

  • Mark Brown (Chair), CIP, Takuvaine-Tutakimoa, Rarotonga
  • Albert Nicholas, CIP, Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston, Rarotonga, Palmerston
  • Patrick Arioka, CIP, Murienua, Rarotonga
  • Te Hani Brown, Independent (Coalition), Tengatangi-Areroa-Ngatirua, Atiu
  • Selina Napa, Demo, Titikaveka, Rarotonga
  • Agnes Armstrong, Demo, Ivirua, Mangaia
  • Terepai Maoate Jr, Demo, Amuri-Ureia, Aitutaki

CIP = Cook Islands Party (ruling party). Demo = Democratic Party.

 

Public Response

Lobby group Te Vai Ora Maori were first to highlight flaws in the Bill, with an email addressed to the MPs of Rarotonga and Aitutaki — sent the day before the Bill’s first reading. This communication raised key points about the proposed legislation.


Response to the To Tatou Vai Authority Biil, Te Vai Ora Maori, Parliament 8 July 2020. View on Facebook.

  1. Context: The Bill is written presuming an urban population with consumer-orientated culture; it has not been written for a semi-rural population with a pacific culture, values, and lifestyle.
  2. Charges: Water will no longer free for the people (water charges, tariffs, fines): the bill allows charges (whether or not you use the public water).
  3. Compulsory participation: you must connect; you can not “go off the grid”.
  4. Control: The Authority will control ALL water (bore water, rainwater, etc.), not just catchment water. The Authority can restrict or suspend access to water.
  5. Agriculture and food security: No matter the scale of production (home garden, stall vendors, commercial growers), all growers and farmers will be adversely impacted. The cost of water will be added to the cost of food. The restriction/suspension of water is a threat to crops and food security.
  6. Rarotonga AND Aitutaki: Aitutaki is covered under this Bill; with little-to-no consultation.
  7. Landowner rights: Rights of title have been almost entirely been eroded: landowners cannot access their own lands, the Minister can recommend catchment boundary changes, etc.

-Justine Matatoa Flangan, Acting Chair, Te Vai Ora Maori

Advance criticism of the select committee is the appointment of Mark Brown as chair, based on the handling of the Te Mato Vai Project Petition.

[Speaking for Te Vai Ora Maori] Flanagan referred back to a complaint from former MP James Beer, who said a previous select committee was unable to conduct a proper inquiry because the [executive] government majority on the committee essentially hijacked the entire process.
Debate about who should lead fresh water consultation, Cook Islands News.

The water authority will operate only on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, calling into question the appointment of members representing the islands of Atiu and Mangaia.

“The members of the committee from the government side are all landowners on a number of the intake sites. We all have an intimate knowledge of the water system and our lands.”
-Mark Brown, Criticism of water committee

Speaking on the Te Mato Vai Select Committee, Brown has previously acknowledged the difficulties of ensuring consultation processes are free from conflicts of interest:

“Every member … has some conflict either as a landowner on an intake or as a committee member for the intake landowners or party related to consultants or contractors”.
-Mark Brown, Te Mato Vai report won’t delay project

 

Water Usage and Access Fees

The issue of metering and water access charges has been the subject of public concern. Supply was established in Rarotonga in the 1960s and water is currently provided free of charge, to all users. Private (native) land has been provided to the government of the Cook Islands for the waterworks and distribution network on the cultural understanding that no charges will be levied for water.

“Land owners agreed no compensation would be charged as long as Government did not charge the Iti Tangata for water. We will now see To Tatou Vai charge every home connected to the system.
-Eric Short, Takau Rangatira Ngati Pa, Takitumu
Water powers are legalised thievery

The Minister for the Te Mato Vai Project to upgrade Rarotonga’s water infrastructure has in the past offered reassurances: that there will be a ‘free allocation’; and that there will only be charges for excessive use. A formal statement appeared in the appendix to the Te Mato Vai Special Select Committee Report (2014-2017), answering the 2014 Te Mato Vai Petition.

GRIEVANCE 1.: That Cook Islanders are fundamentally opposed to paying for water so any water project premised on vague and uncertain ‘user pays’ principles is unacceptable.
-Te Mato Vai Petition (2014)

Potential Charges for Excessive Use of Water
7.1.12 In terms of the government‘s direction regarding domestic households there will be no charge for water for the first 400 litres per person per day but given that it will cost between $1.2 and $1.4 million per year to operate and maintain the water system if there is a level of water use that exceeds what is considered fair use for households then penalties will need to be considered for households wasting water by exceeding the free allocations of water per household. This may translate to about $30 per month for average size households (less than 4 people) and about $70 per month for large households (more than 5 people).
-Te Mato Vai Special Select Committee Report (2017)

It is unclear how much a household with four (whole) people will be charged, or how the Authority will determine the number of occupiers at any one time.

The 400L threshold proposed for domestic fair use is derived from figures from urban Auckland, New Zealand. However there is little in common between the lifestyles and water needs of an urban society in a temperate climate, and those of a semi-rural tropical pacific island. In Rarotonga, domestic connections are also used to water small scale agricultural blocks and tend livestock.

An alternative take on ‘waste’ — based on the through-put of the new Te Mato Vai system and demand estimates — is that less than 1% of the water that is treated will be used as drinking-water. The remaining 99% will be used for agriculture, cleaning, washing vehicles, etc.

A futher public grievance was raised in the petition Anti-chemical Treatment of the Water Supply of Rarotonga. The petition attracted over 1400 signatures, which represents nearly 25% of the voting population of Rarotonga, but the week proceeding the first reading of the Bill was controversially ruled by the Speaker to be ‘out of order’.

WHEREFORE YOUR PETITIONERS PRAY:

That the Cook Islands Government and its associated agencies responsible for the water supply of Rarotonga:

  • (3) Ensure that the domestic supply of water remains free for the People of Rarotonga.

Anti-chemical Treatment of the Water Supply of Rarotonga

The Bill makes provision for a free allocation for domestic use, but does not detail the maximum amount, and refers to the amount used by the occupants (collectively as a ‘customer’), rather than an allocation per person.

31 Directions as to supply of water

  1. Despite section 26(2) the Authority must supply to all eligible customers with an eligible connection a free allocation of water up to the maximum amount specified in regulations for their domestic use.
  2. The sums that would have been payable to the Authority but for the supply of water without charge under subsection (1) are -
    1. a debt due to the Authority by the Crown; and
    2. payable to the Authority on the date that charge would have been payable by customers but for the requirement in subsection (1) to supply free water.
  3. In this section, —
    1. domestic use means the non-commercial consumption and use of water in any occupied dwelling by the occupants of that dwelling
    2. eligible connection means the registered connection that a person uses for the person’s own domestic use
    3. eligible customer means a person who has a registered connection with the Authority for that person’s own domestic use.

Resident customers will not be paying for the free allocation. Instead, resident tax-payers will be paying for the free allocation. If you are a resident who pays tax, then your taxes will be paying for your free allocation.

Not-for-profit; and not for Te Mato Vai

As a not-for-profit, charges are intended to cover operational and administrative costs: staffing, maintenance, billing, chemical supply, fees payable to the board, liabilities/depreciation, etc.

…it will cost between $1.2 and $1.4 million per year to operate and maintain the water system…
-Te Mato Vai Special Select Committee Report (2017)

The supply contract tendered by To Tatou Vai in May 2019 estimated $350-$500k for the chemicals polyaluminum chloride and calcium hypochlorite.

Revenue collected will not be used to cover the costs, or service the debts arising from the construction of the Te Mato Vai Project.

28 No transfer of Authority reserves

  1. No reserves of the Authority may be transferred to any government bank account, other than to carry out the objectives of this Act or where the payment is made to meet an obligation that the Authority has to pay money to the Crown.
  2. The Authority has no obligation to the Crown to meet all or any part of the costs of Te Mato Vai.
 

Compulsory Participation

29 Customer participation compulsory

  1. A person who is the owner or occupier of unimproved land may apply to the Authority for a connection to service that land.
  2. At least 1 owner of a building must apply to the Authority for a connection to service that building unless the building is —
    1. derelict; or
    2. a structure associated with another building on the same land that already has a connection to the Authority’s network; or
    3. neither designed nor used for occupation by persons; or
    4. used exclusively for storage purposes; or
    5. situated outside the full service zone.

The owner/occupier of unimproved land may apply for a connection; but the owner of a (habitable) building must apply for a connection.

There is also a reference made to a ‘periodic charge’ the right to charge a line rental / water access fee. This charge will be levied regardless of whether a customer uses water.

29 Customer participation compulsory

  1. If 2 or more connections are established, the Authority must separately meter those connections and may charge rates that reflect any differing use of each connection.
  2. The Authority may make a periodic charge, regardless of whether a customer uses water from a connection, for the availability of water to that connection.
  3. ...
  4. A person who fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with subsection (2) commits an offence punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding $5,000.

The above may be of concern to non-resident Cook Islanders, who will be faced with charges for family homes that are not currently occupied. Each connection will be separately metered, and likely incur a separate periodic fee/line rate.

On balance: Free (allocation) + periodic charge = monthly water bill
(And the free allocation will be paid from the government’s tax take.)

“If you don’t want water from the To Tatou Vai system, then you are free to install your own water for your own use.”
-Mark Brown, 10 July 2020: Criticism of water committee

The statement issued by the Minister is broad; given the detail that is set out by the Bill:

  • Households with a private source will be paying for the operation of the Authority: connection is compulsory, periodic fees apply.
  • If TTV prohibits the use of private supplies, then the only choice will be to use water from the pubic network: water use charges will be incurred.
  • The Authority can prohibit or regulate the installation and use of all/any water sources: Domestic users will still be bound by the TTVA Regulations (and not ‘free’ to manage their own water resources).

The Te Mato Vai Water Supply Master Plan for Rarotonga (2014) provided estimates for the cost of metering connections, with provision for reduced pressure zone devices to be used for commercial and agricultural connections.

11.7 Water meters and other infrastructure costs
As part of the Te Mato Vai project, water meters will be fitted to all properties to monitor usage, calculate water losses and encourage the efficient use of water.

From analysing the Project City costs an estimate of $700 per unit will be used.

Due to the risk of contamination of the system due to backflow, it was envisaged that 20% of commercial and agricultural connections would have reduced pressure zone (RPZ) devices to prevent this. From discussions with a water supplier in New Zealand it is estimated that these will cost $2,000 per unit to install.
-Te Mato Vai Water Supply Master Plan for Rarotonga. AECOM, April 2014

 

Control of all freshwater sources

To date, the public understanding of the aims of the Te Mato Vai Project has been to upgrade the intakes and the treatment facilities, and replacement of the distribution (pipe) network. The Bill however, asserts control over all natural water sources, not just the water collected at the waterworks, but also private wells, water tanks, rainwater, etc.

66 Regulations

The Queen’s Representative may, by Order in Executive Council on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations for 1 or more of the following purposes:

  1. to prohibit or create rules about the installation and use of any well, artesian water supply, desalination plant, underground water table, rainwater, water tank, river, or stream:
  2. to prescribe the maximum amount of water which over any specified period or periods of time must be supplied by the Authority at no cost under section 31(1).

Although appearing to defer to the Queen’s Representative, and further implicating the Executive Council, it is on the recommendation of the Minister that the access to alternative water sources will be regulated.

The Explanatory Note to the Bill offers a broad interpretation of this clause, albeit one that omit the role of the Minister, and that the free allocation (maximum amount of water…supplied by the Authority at no cost) may be changed at any time.

Clause 66 permits the Queen’s Representative by Order In Executive Counsel to make regulations dealing with certain matters related to the Act.
-Explanatory Notes to the To Tatou Vai Authority Bill

 

Agriculture

Agriculture is estimated to be the largest single sector for usage of water on Rarotonga with approximately 40% of water usage attributed to agricultural and horticultural practice.
Cook Islands National Water Policy (2016)

The Cook Islands Government has not acknowledged or addressed the needs of agricultural users when it comes to water treatment methods; policy regarding resource use; or proposed regulation. Government officials have instead framed agricultural use of water as ‘wasteful’. This bias is evident in the wording of the Cook Islands National Water Policy (2016) which is punitive in tone and also fails to identify the characteristics/qualities of water necessary for horticulture or watering livestock:

3.4 Ensure adequate and affordable water for horticultural and agricultural production.

…Horticulture and agriculture users will not threaten the quality or sustainability of water sources for other users. Users of water at each of these [agricultural] sites must ensure that water is protected from contamination. Information will be provided to users to comply with drinking water safety plans and maintain applicable standards where possible.
-IBID

In addition to asserting control over all freshwater sources, (noting that some agricultural users currently draw water from private wells/bores), the Bill reaffirms that domestic users take priority. The Authority can restrict water to growers. In times of drought, water restrictions could result in significant damage or loss to crops or livestock. Water security directly impacts food security.

30 Obligation to manage fair allocation of available water

  1. The Authority may restrict the flow of water to —
    1. any agricultural connection where other uses, in the reasonable opinion of the Authority, take priority:
    2. any other connection that is, in the reasonable opinion of the Authority,—
      1. taking amounts of water that are unfair in relation to the needs of consumers as a whole; or
      2. taking amounts of water that are adversely affecting other consumers in the vicinity of that connection.
  2. The Authority may, if it has reasonable grounds to believe that any customer has wasted a significant amount of water, terminate or limit the supply of water to that customer, on 24 hours’ notice.

The Bill allows the Water Authority to charge a different rate depending on the amount of water used, and what the water will be used for. No data has been collected on the amount of water required for agricultural purposes. Volumes depend on the crop and irrigation method; livestock needs; cash cropping means the same block of land is used to grow different crops from season-to-season; climatic conditions, rain and wind also have an impact; some soils retain more moisture than others. Given the range of variables, it is unlikely that the Authority’s opinion of a fair allocation is sufficiently informed by an understanding of agricultural practice in Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

26 Tariffs and Not-for-profit

  1. The Authority may set tariffs and charges that differentiate between customers on the basis of —
    1. the amount of water used; and
    2. what the water will be used for.

See also: Chemically-treated Water Supply: Impacts on Agriculture, Organics, Soil, and Plant Health.

 

Land Rights

To Tatou Vai Authority Bill: Catchment Maps and (Land) Title

Court proceedings between the Crown and landowners are ongoing (as at July 2020), however the Bill legislates the right of the Minister to alter valley and catchment boundaries.

66 Regulations

The Queen’s Representative may, by Order in Executive Council on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations for 1 or more of the following purposes:

  1. to set or alter the boundaries of any catchment, and to amend or replace Schedule 2 accordingly:
  2. to set or alter the boundaries of any valley:

The active agent is (solely) the Minister. When an Order (regulation) is presented to Executive Council (being the ministers/members of the ruling party), the QR then sybollicly signs-off the new regulation. Ministerial Orders are not put to public consultation, or debated in Parliament.
(Something, something… corrupts — absolutely.)

Combined catchment area of Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

Above Combined water catchment area for Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The map does not show the additional land required for the water treatement facilities and access roads.

“[Te Vai Ora Maori] are now spreading misinformation in their latest mass email, eg “Landowner rights: rights of title have been almost entirely been eroded”. I view these actions as obstructive rather than constructive. There will be public consultations, select committee hearings and landowner meetings. The government will continue to engage with landowners as it has for the last seven years of this project.”
-Mark Brown, Criticism of water committee. Cook Islands News.

The mass email referred to by Brown was sent only to the members of Parliament for the attention of the representative of the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Choosing to respond through the daily newspaper seems a poor choice if the Minister’s intent is to prevent the spread of ‘misinformation’.

The land for the new infrastrucuture has not been leased by the government of the Cook Islands; and it has not been taken by warrant (which would require the payment of compensation to landowners). Instead the land has been used, landowners barrred from access, and the catchment valleys and stream ecosystems negatively impacted.

Government are not proposing to pay any royalties for water. Instead, the families who have allowed for the construction of facilities as a common good will be charged for the resource that has been made freely available to the community.

“The Bill will give To Tatou Vai ownership of our valleys, our resources, our water. But this is not the government’s land and this is not the government’s water.
If the To Tatou Vai Bill is passed, where do we stand?”
-Eric Short, Takau Rangatira, Ngati Pa, Takitumu
Water rights impinge on land rights. Cook Islands News.

The Cook Islands Government (CIG) is seeking to restrict or prohibit activities and development in the water catchment areas, changing customary / ‘native’ land rights. The Bill proposes a landowner management structure, however this structure has not been agreed by the majority of the land owning families.

Public relations statements issued on behalf of the CIG have failed to acknowledge the position of landowners, and may have mislead public perception of the negotiations. As one example:

Most land-owners of the 10 water intakes have agreed to a six-month trial of poly-aluminium chloride, a coagulant that cleans the water of smaller particles and harmful protozoa…
Govt turns on filtered water to homes. Anneka Brown, Cook Islands News, Nov 2019.

At that time, there was no ‘most’ landowner consensus; there were concerns about the proposed trial and the ongoing method of operation. This led to the Ministry of Justice ordering an independent expert review of the Te Mato Vai system which was not reported until March 2020.

Catchment Committees

Catchment committees are proposed and tasked with:

ensuring that no future structure, building, development or other activity within each catchment adversely affects the water quality or the water supply operations of the Authority.

A landowner representative may be appointed for each title (with all titles listed in the Schedule to the Bill). The number of titles for each catchment varies; Ngatoe is listed as Uninvestigated land, Taipara and Totokoitu have just one title each, and Takuvaine has the largest number of titles at 13. The number of titles may not be a meaningful indication of the number of families that are ‘on’ that title, and these families on each title will be required to reach consensus on a single representative.

13 Catchment committees and their members

  1. There shall be a catchment committee for each catchment.
  2. The landowners on each title included in a catchment all or part of which included in the catchment, must, during the required period, appoint a person
  3. ...
  4. ...
  5. If the landowners on a title fail to appoint a person to be a member of a catchment committee within the required period, the Authority may appoint a person to the catchment committee to represent the interests of those landowners.

Unlike the committee structure proposed by the Environment (Takuvaine Water Catchment Management Plan) Regulations 2006, the TTVA Bill does not recognise Planters (growers) as stakeholders in the management of catchment areas.

 

Classification/subjects: native rights, water soverignty, Te Mato Vai petition, public petitions Cook Islands, Rarotonga, water supply, To Tatou Vai Authority Bill, Water Charges Bill, TTV Bill, public consultation.

 

References

 

Parliament of the Cook Islands

 

News

  • 1 Jun 2018: Te Mato Vai Select Committee Issues. James Beer in Cook Islands News.
    …the [Te Mato Vai Project Petition] Select Committee failed to discharge its responsibilities:
    The delay between the tabling and the eventual hearing was unacceptable.
    Witnesses were not sworn in, despite requests from the committee that they should.
    Committee chairman Mark Brown denied all requests for information related to costings.
    The committee failed to follow procedure set out in the Standing Orders.
    The petition was not answered by the Select Committee. The report to parliament failed to address many critical issues and was intended to silence criticism.
    The report sent to Parliament was not written by the committee and the views of some members were not reflected in the report.
  • 27 Jun 2020: Justine Flanagan: Parliament is like our utu tree Cook Islands News.
    Our Parliament is much like this utu tree; under its canopy we determine our direction as a nation. However, the treatment of the last three public petitions reveals a pattern: Government uses Parliament to frustrate the process, and to silence the people.
  • 4 July 2020: Two strikes but not out for petition. Katrina Tanirau, Cook Islands News.
    Parliament’s Speaker Niki Rattle has ruled the Anti-Chemical Treatment of the Water Supply of Rarotonga petition out of order as Parliament does not have power to issue an injunction against treating the water with chemicals.
    The prayer does not ask Parliament to “issue an injunction”, Flanagan said. Parliament is not the Court. “For a person to obtain an injunction order they must have a legal right that has been violated, petitioners have no legal right for the Court to uphold. The prayer is not a private application seeking a Court order. A prayer is a public request presented to Parliament for consideration by a select committee.”
  • 8 July 2020: Eric Short: Water rights impinge on land rights Cook Islands News.
    The Bill will give To Tatou Vai ownership of our valleys, our resources, our water. But this is not the government’s land and this is not the government’s water.
    If the To Tatou Vai Bill is passed, where do we stand?
  • 10 July 2020: Debate about who should lead fresh water consultation. Rashneel Kumar, Cook Islands News.
    Lobby group Te Vai Ora Maori’s Justine Flanagan said: “What is most concerning is the appointment of Minister Brown as chair especially given his failure to execute his duties as chair of the Te Mato Vai petition”.
  • 10 July 2020: Mark Brown: Criticism of water committee. Cook Islands News.
    “[Te Vai Ora Maori] are now spreading misinformation in their latest mass email, eg ‘Landowner rights: rights of title have been almost entirely been eroded’. I view these actions as obstructive rather than constructive.…If you don’t want water from the To Tatou Vai system, then you are free to install your own water for your own use.
  • 22 July 2020: Eric Short: ‘Water powers are legalised thievery’ . Cook Islands News.
    ”Land owners agreed no compensation would be charged as long as Government did not charge the Iti Tangata for water. We will now see To Tatou Vai charge every home connected to the system. To Tatou Vai will have to charge every household a fee each month to maintain the system and pay running costs – about $4 million a year. Based on say 5000 water connections, that will be approximately $80 a month per household, just to break even.”
  • 22 July 2020: Water authority won’t make a profit, just cover costs. Rashneel Kumar, Cook Islands News.
    According to the To Tatou Vai [Authority] Bill 2020, the authority will be a self-funding, not-for-profit statutory body governed by a board and a chief executive officer. However the Bill says it may set and charge tariffs to customers for the supply of water. It may also set and impose charges for connection of a water supply.
  • 25 July 2020: ‘Extremist’ landowners behind today’s water protest – Govt . Rashneel Kumar, Cook Islands News.
    Landowner Tere Carr said the intake landowners and people of Rarotonga should be very concerned about the Bill “which is robbing landowners of their right and tika’anga to our water”. Carr claims the government intends to take these rights through legislation “so that they don’t have to deal with landowners anymore. A tribe without water rights are nothing … the landowners agreed for free water for our people in lieu of compensation. This Bill steals those rights and makes government the owner of our source of life.”
  • 29 July 2020: Growers want a rep in water authority board . Losirene Lacanivalu, Cook Islands News.
    Participants were informed that the new water authority can prevent growers using natural water sources.
    They were also told agricultural users will be first to have their water supply “restricted” in times of drought or low-pressure, as government has directed the authority to prioritise other water users.
  • 20 Aug 2020: Cook Islanders call for cuts to proposed water fees. RNZ.
    TVOM: ̶What’s come forward is that there’s still significant concern about chemicals, significant concern about [how] households will afford monthly bills. It may not seem much from New Zealand but we have only just had our minimum wage increase to $NZ8 a hour, so for a lot of families the monthly charge proposed for the water charges, it’s a significant burden for them.”
  • 20 Aug 2020: Cook Islands DPM says free water for Rarotonga residents, unless excessive use. RNZ.
  • 22 Aug 2020: Govt is to amend water bill. Cook Islands News.
    “What we will do is make sure the allocation we are looking at for water will be sufficient for households to use without being charged for their water — that’s the aim here,” Brown told RNZ. “But again, until we have the system up and running and the meters in place, and I would expect two to three years before we have the data available to make an informed decision on what charges will be.”
    …MPs had also agreed that Aitutaki, which was to have a similar reticulation scheme, would not be included within the current legislation. Brown said it was felt Aitutaki needed to be covered by separate legislation.
  • 24 Aug 2020: Cooks Deputy PM promises changes to water system set up.. RNZ.
    “ Compulsory will be removed. Aitutaki should be under own statutes and not under current To Tatou Vai Bill. We don’t know until we get the system up and running. First thing we need to do is have the metering in place, this will allow us to have more information and data on what households use; what businesses use; what the agriculture sector uses on this island. What we would do is make sure that the allocation that we’re looking at for water is sufficient for households to use without being charged for their water…Until we have the system up-and-running and the meters in place, I would expect at least 2-3 years before we have the data available to make an informed decision on what charges will be.
    There has been significant consultation with landowners, specfically consent to allow these structures to be built on their land.
    There’s a misapprehension about the tariffs many people don’t realise they’re paying for their water already, directly or indirectly. They’re having to boil their water because it’s not safe to drink, or they’re having to travel to a water station…or they’re having to buy bottled water. ”
  • 9 Sept 2020: Tribe raises concerns over water bill. Melina Etches, Cook Islands News.
    There are many aspects of the bill that Ngati Kainuku support including free water allocation to residences, provision of clean water, not for profit operation, water catchment committees, co-management of water and no transfer of Authority reserves.
  • 10 Sept 2020 Justine Flanagan: Free water allocation ‘misunderstood’. Cook Islands News.
    The submission to Parliament by Ngati Kainuku illustrates how ‘free allocation’ is widely misunderstood. ‘Free allocation’ does not mean free water for residents. Under the bill, To Tatou Vai must be financially independent. The authority will need to cover its own staff and operational costs — $2.8 million annually. If every household were to keep within their free allocation each month, then TTV would not collect any money.
  • 17 Sept 2020: Bills top agenda in Parliament. Cook Islands News.
    Acting Clerk of Parliament Jeannine Daniel has confirmed Parliament will sit on Wednesday next week [23 Sept].…Parliament will receive reports from four select committees on the review of bills namely: Crimes Bill, Immigration Bill, Agriculture Bill and the To Tatou Vai Authority Bill.
  • 17 Sept 2020 Opposition select committee MPs to hold their own public meetings. Cook Islands News.
    In a statement, Democratic Party said their members on the select committees dealing with the four bills — To Tatou Vai, Agriculture, Crimes and Immigration — will be ‘updating the public” at a meeting arranged by MP for Ruaau William ‘Smiley” Heather and Akaoa MP Nooroa Baker.
  • 19 Sept 2020 Andy Kirkwood: Select committee meetings. Cook Islands News.
    There is widespread confusion as a result of access for the operation of the Te Mato Vai Project being legislated in two separate acts. The Infrastructure Act 2019 covers the access roads and land required for the water treatment facilities. The To Tatou Vai Authority Bill 2020 is about the area where rainfall and groundwater originate; to feed the streams.
  • 28 Sept 2020 Traditional leaders call for new water bill. Cook Islands News.
    A traditional leaders’ group is calling on Parliament to ‘postpone’ the To Tatou Vai Authority Bill until it is ‘thoroughly acceptable to the landowners. Further, the issue of toxic waste by-products from the use of chemicals has not been resolved in that advice from chemical engineers (as opposed to civil engineers) has not been sought. We believe that an Environmental Impact Assessment should be carried out in order to protect human health and the fragile ecosystems upon which we depend.
  • 9 Dec 2020. LETTER: The writing is on the wall. Cook Islands News. The Cook Islands Economic Strategy 2030 estimates that households in the lowest quintile are only able to save $1000 a year after expenses. A water tariff of $80 per month guts that down to $40. Add to that the increase in the cost of food when growers are levied for water usage. How much for a watermelon when growers have to pay for water?… Given the current economic climate, this is not a time to burden, it is a time to rebuild. It is prudent that To Tatou Vai become a government agency, a rebranded ICI Water Division.
  • 11 Jan 2021 OPINION: It takes courage to disagree with the government.
    All the children were under the age of 10. Other young mums walked with demonstrators, leading their young ones by the hand. The young mums had joined a public demonstration in our main township against the adding of chemicals to the Rarotonga water supply; they also objected to the To Tatou Vai Bill.

Working Draft. Updated: 21 Sept 2020.

 
 

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