12 Jun 2010

Protests throughout country against water privatisation

8:00 pm on 12 June 2010

Protest rallies against the privatisation of water supply were held throughout the country on Saturday.

The rallies took place in at least 11 areas, including Whangarei, North Shore, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin.

The protests were organised by the Right to Water Group, based in Wellington, and the Water Pressure Group, in Auckland.

A Water Pressure Group spokesperson, Penny Bright, says they're objecting to a parliamentary bill that they believe will make it easier for councils to privatise water services.

Ms Bright says essential public services like water should not be run as profit-making businesses.

'Losing control' of vital resource

In Auckland, about 50 people attended a meeting at the North Shore City Council offices, where deputy mayor Julia Parfitt told them that the public were losing control of a vital resource.

In Wellington, where protesters gathered beside the well-known Bucket Fountain in Cuba Mall, organiser Maria McMillan accused Act and National of lying about the bill by saying it's all about flexibility of water delivery.

Similar schemes failed elsewhere - Kedgley

The Local Government Amendment bill allow councils to enter into contracts with private companies to run water services for up to 35 years, rather than the 15 years permitted now.

Green MP Sue Kedgley says it will allow councils to convert water from a human right into a commodity.

Ms Kedgley says water is too important to be put into the hands of multinational companies. She says water privatisation schemes in other countries have failed to provide clean, affordable water.

Local Government New Zealand says the changes are necessary because the current time limit is not long enough to attract investment.

Public submissions on the bill close on 18 June.