Complaints about the government’s television commercials on the Three Water Reform described them as misinformation, bogus, and a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign.

The government is proposing to merge municipal-owned drinking water, wastewater treatment and stormwater infrastructure and services into four regional organizations.

The advertising campaign.
Photo: Provided

The $ 3.5 million ad campaign, which began in June 2021, portrays disgruntled cartoon characters and animals with poor quality water.

A voiceover says the government is working to make sure Kiwis can continue to drink straight from the tap: “Imagine Aotearoa without good water. That would be rude, eh? That’s why we are working with the councils to make sure that this is not happening for real. So now instead of them having to shoulder this burden, we are grouping them together, to keep everyone on the way to better water all around. So our trout will be happy, underwear can still be sets, and best of all, we Kiwis can still drink straight from the tap, so what? Better water is better for everyone. “

In another version, the voiceover describes what “it would be a stinky place”, how the showers would be a total waste of time and the awa (rivers) would be “all dirty with mud”. The animation included a green liquid from a “coughing” pipe, with a thermometer in its mouth.

One complainant said it “crossed the line of a propaganda campaign spreading false truths.”

Another described him as “alarmist and full of disinformation. I find that very offensive. The government will use the water assets that it essentially stole from the taxpayer to raise a loan of 160 billion dollars, thus doubling our national debt ”.

“The ad suggests that the only way to get safe water and safe drinking water is through this melting process,” wrote another complainant. “It appears the ad is meant to ensure that the public pressurizes the boards to take this action, but no balancing information is provided. The ad appears to me to be irresponsible, misleading and inappropriate use. taxpayer funds. “

Some viewers took issue with the voiceover representation of the government working with the councils so that they did not have to “bear the burden” of providing safe drinking water.

“Ads are childish,” one said. “He states that this will ease the burden of counseling and implies that the environment will be better with swimmable rivers and better drinking water. It refers to a trout. I am a district councilor and I find these advertisements misleading and essentially false. . “

“This advertisement is very misleading, and I consider it little more than propaganda,” said another. “The announcement says they are working with advice, which is a blatant lie. The point is, Three Waters has not yet been fully established or instituted. If this is not active, how can it be? do they work with tips to improve water? The answer is, they can’t, and the tips I asked for confirmed that. “

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled in the context of the advocacy advertising, this was not misleading or offensive.

A total of 48 complaints were filed regarding the advertisements.

“Truthful and Balanced” Campaign – Government

The government has said its aim is to strengthen support for the Three Waters reform.

“The ministry is convinced that our campaign is truthful, balanced and not misleading and that it complies with all aspects of the Code of Advertising Standards,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“Regarding the cost of the campaign, and based on the current statement of work of our creative agency which foresees that the public information and education campaign will run until the end of 2021 , the total cost of the campaign across all channels and media platforms is expected to be $ 3.5 million. “

An additional $ 500,000 has been set aside for the development, management and hosting of his website.

His statement referred to the Cabinet decision on advertising, which was intended to provide “a national image of the case for change and to gain broader support for the reforms.”

The councils and iwi have provided comments to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and a final report from officials is expected in the coming weeks, after which Cabinet would consider next steps, including a public consultation process.