Nanaia Mahuta says she could’ve had more support from key Labour ministers

Former senior minister Nanaia Mahuta said she “carried” her landmark Three Waters reforms without the support of key senior ministers.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Q+A with Jack Tame, Mahuta said she could have had more support from senior ministers.

“Could I have got more support from a broader range of senior ministers during the time of promoting those reforms? Absolutely,” Mahuta said.

Mahuta implied she carried the reforms alone.

“When people look back at the passing of the legislation through the House, they will have seen that I was pretty much carrying that load,” she said.

She said that former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern was supportive during the reforms. Ardern offered Mahuta support at key points, she said.

Mahuta was reshuffled from the local government portfolio after Chris Hipkins became Prime Minister. Then-new Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty took over the reforms, modifying them slightly so that councils’ water assets would be merged into 10 entities rather than just four.

National has promised to repeal most of the reforms, particularly the plan to amalgamate councils’ water assets into 10 large water entities.

Mahuta said Ardern, while still Prime Minister, had floated the idea of reshuffling her from the local government role to allow her to focus on the foreign affairs portfolio.

“Prior to her departure, [Ardern] said, ‘You have carried a pretty hefty load there - I want you to focus on foreign affairs’,” Mahuta said.

Mahuta stood as an electorate-only candidate in her Hauraki-Waikato electorate this election, losing to Te Pāti Māori’s Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke.

Mahuta caused controversy in her last weeks in the foreign affairs role due to the way she responded to Hamas’ October 7 terror attack on Israel. Mahuta’s initial tweet in response to the attack failed to condemn Hamas. She later posted a far stronger message.

Details released under the Official Information Act show Mahuta was advised to use far stronger wording, but she had rejected that advice.

Mahuta said she had taken advice from “another party” whom she declined to name. She declined to say whether the source was official or not.

Mahuta said there was a delay “in terms of when the information came through, when I saw it, and when the tweet went out”.

She acknowledged she might have made a mistake.

“Look, I can’t dwell on mistakes. We drew a line as soon as we got more information around condemnation of the actions of Hamas,” she said.