Is Peter Dunne breaking a promise on water assets?

Amongst the many accusations and targetted pressure swirling around Peter Dunne and asset sales a claims keep popping up aboutpromises on water assets.

Clayton Cosgrove recently posted  on the Labour website:

Time for Dunne to do what he promised

|  Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“Mr Dunne told voters before the election that he too wanted a New Zealand that retained control over water resources.

“This is when we discover whether Peter Dunne can be trusted, and whether his promises are worth the election brochure paper they are printed on,” Clayton Cosgrove said.

And David Clark has referred to this on Red Alert:

1 –Absent conscience when it comes to keeping his election promise never to sell off our water assets.

Cosgrove claimed:

“On at least three occasions before the election Peter Dunne promised United Future would never be a part of selling Kiwibank, Radio New Zealand or our water resources,” Clayton Cosgrove said.

And Cosgrove quotes some examples, then states a conclusion:

“Clearly Genesis Power, Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power and Solid Energy New Zealand hold significant interests in water resources, and if Mr Dunne stays true to his hand-on-heart promise to voters, he will support Labour’s amendment to the Mixed Ownership Model Bill that prohibits the sale of such companies.

But Cosgrove is cherry picking quotes and ignoring context. United Future policy (and Peter Dunne statements) were strong against selling “the supply of the water”:

Asset Sales

Water. UnitedFuture does not intend to wait until it is on the asset sales agenda. New Zealanders would never – or should never – accept a sell-off of the supply of the water, or any of the aspects around it.

But it was also made clear that United Future would support the right of National to promote one of it’s major policies which specified the four energy companies:

UnitedFuture on Asset Sales

As a party we had therefore ruled out ever supporting any sales – partial or whole – of Kiwibank, Radio New Zealand or our water supplies.

We further said (on 1 November 2011) that in the case of the four energy companies and Air New Zealand, which National was proposing to sell a portion of, that we believed the Government should retain a minimum of 51% control, and that there should be limits on the holdings able to be purchased by individuals or entities, and that New Zealand household investors be given preferential purchase rights at time of issue. (See www.united.future.org.nz/asset-sales-1/).

UnitedFuture’s confidence and supply agreement, negotiated with National after the election, confirms all these points and is therefore consistent in every regard with our pre-election policy. That is why UnitedFuture will support the Government’s plans to introduce a mixed-ownership model for the four energy companies and Air New Zealand.

So a clear differentiation has been made between energy companies and supply of water.

What has been a bit vague is what the references to various water rights means. So I asked Peter Dunne for some clarification:

What we were essentially referring to was privatisation of high country rivers, lakes etc that would lead to restrictions on public access.

We were not talking about hydro dams, for example, so Labour’s attempts to hook this into the MOMs debate is at best specious, at worst dishonest. If one looks at our overall approach to preserving public access, the overall policy fits into place neatly.

A distinction between power companies and water rights was obvious, this makes it clearer.

Political claims of broken promises are common, but rarely stack up with facts.

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