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Message of Solidarity to NGO Assembly of the World Water Forum

17 March 2000

The Water Pressure Group in Auckland wishes the participants of the NGOs assembly greetings of solidarity and wish you all a productive series of discussions in the Hague, this week.

The battleground against the global corporate-market menace presents many fronts - none more important than issues relating to water resources and services.

We in the Water Pressure Group, Auckland, New Zealand oppose all forms of commercialisation in water services. Following a fourteen-year period of various governments, first corporatising then privatising state owned assets and utilities, we are sufficiently experienced to be able to mount a resistance to an extension of that agenda into the local body arena. Sufficiently experienced as well to discern that commercialisation of water services in the guise of municipal-owned companies is a further insidious and cynical step down the new right path, not a viable soft-option.

A common scenario is being described in municipalities around the world. Water infrastructure is old and neglected - bad past councils - lack of depreciation provision - no efficiency - out of sight, out of mind - etc, etc. As with the phoney "oil shock" of the '70s, the people are bamboozled and cajoled to fear that a very cornerstone of civilisation is crumbling beneath our feet. And we are to assume that democratic structures are too flaccid and effete to prevent the decay.

The ideologues intone: the only line of rescue from this quagmire is to engage more market reform - the only agents with the nous and gumption to save the people are the corporations!

Meanwhile in Auckland, commercialised water has cost the lives of three workers (on 6.2.99) in the worst New Zealand industrial accident in more than 20 years. The storm/wastewater separation project is totally bungled - "started at the wrong end". Metrowater continues in its arrogance - buttressed by a majority of politicians - both right wing and some "progressive" from local body and central government.

Under the name of "conservation" certain agents argue that punitive user charges are the effective way to minimise consumption - we say that property taxes are being reduced for the wealthy, with the costs of infrastructure being loaded onto the backs of those least able to pay. That is the reality in this small "water-rich" country with one of the fastest growing gaps between rich and poor. It certainly is a dream of wealthy propertied interests globally - always has been.

Our right as a community to possess and have properly managed by elected representatives, our most vital public services such as water is sacred and will not be taken from us without a massive fight.

Your endeavours at the Hague this week give good scope for world-wide cooperation in the fightback against this global menace of unbridled corporate power.

Fraternal greetings,
Jim Gladwin
Media spokesman

The Water Pressure Group

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