Manawatū District Council votes to reduce membership fee to Local Government New Zealand

At its Council meeting on Thursday, 2 June, Manawatū District Council voted to reduce its annual membership fee to Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) in protest at their handling of the Three Waters Reform process.

This decision came about as Council’s membership with LGNZ is up for renewal, and Councillors had the option to either renew or not for the coming financial year.

Councillor Grant Hadfield spoke of his desire for Council to not renew their membership with LGNZ, noting multiple failures where the organisation had not advocated the interests or position of councils who oppose the Three water Reforms.

In response to Councillor Hadfield’s speech, Deputy Mayor Michael Ford agreed with all of the points made by Councillor Hadfield, but put forward a motion proposing a reduction of the membership fee of $44,943.18 by $15,000 plus GST. This was the amount that Council paid to Communities 4 Local Democracy, who are opposing the government’s Three Waters Reform in its current form.

“A message needs to be sent to LGNZ, but I acknowledge that there is a wider benefit to being a member of LGNZ outside of Three Waters,” said Deputy Mayor Ford.

In October 2021, Council voted against a motion put forward by Councillor Hadfield to leave LGNZ following the governments announcement of mandating Three Waters Reform.

However, it was agreed to send a letter of no confidence to LGNZ president Stuart Crosby and chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene. LGNZ had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government stating that they would not oppose the reforms.

Councillors accepted that there was a risk paying a reduced membership fee may lead to action to remove Manawatū District Council from LGNZ, but they believed the move was necessary.

“We’ve tried our absolute best to get through to the leadership of LGNZ that we’re dissatisfied, others are too, with how they have gone about the Three Waters Reform, and we’ve got nowhere,” said Mayor Helen Worboys during the Council meeting.

The decision to withhold the full membership fee amount may be reconsidered at a later date.