In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements.
This reform programme builds on the progress made through the Three Waters Review and establishment of Taumata Arowai.
Currently 67 different councils own and operate the majority of the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services across New Zealand. Local government is facing urgent challenges in the provision of these services including: funding infrastructure deficits, complying with safety standards and environmental expectations, building resilience to natural hazards and climate change into three waters networks, and supporting growth.
Rather than piecemeal solutions, comprehensive, system-wide reform is needed to achieve lasting benefits for the local government sector, our communities, and the environment.
The Government’s starting intention is to reform local government’s three waters services into a small number of multi-regional entities with a bottom line of public ownership. The exact size, shape and design of these entities is still being worked through.
The reform programme is being progressed through a voluntary, partnership-based approach with the local government sector, alongside iwi/Māori as the Crown’s Treaty Partner. A Joint Three Waters Steering Committee provides collaborative oversight of the reform programme that brings together central and local government expertise and experience.
Regulatory pressures and Three Waters Reform
The status quo for water service providers is changing. This Government is progressing reforms to the regulatory environment to ensure all New Zealanders have access to affordable safe drinking water and stormwater and wastewater services that meet today’s public health and environmental expectations.
Public health, consumer and environmental protection, the enforcement of standards and the requirement to meet appropriate infrastructure investments are critical parts of the overall Three Waters Reform Programme regardless of whether councils continue to participate in the reform programme or not.
These will expose council water suppliers to three main areas of regulatory focus, will significantly raise compliance pressures and likely require substantial additional investments in infrastructure and services. These include:
- Taumata Arowai ensuring stringent compliance with drinking water safety standards;
- Taumata Arowai working alongside Regional Council regulators to provide national oversight on the performance of wastewater and stormwater networks;
- Economic regulation to provide water consumers with assurance of fair and affordable pricing, and ensure transparency, efficiencies and appropriate levels of investment across three waters services.
For more details about the Government’s position, please visit: https://www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme
Last updated: 06 Sep 2021