Central Government is reviewing the regulation and supply of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) in New Zealand. The Three Waters Reform Programme is being led by the Department for Internal Affairs.
The review, which began in 2017 and was sparked by the campylobacteriosis outbreak in Havelock North in 2016, and has already delivered new legislation and the creation of Taumata Arowai, a new Water Services Regulator, to oversee and enforce a new drinking water regulatory framework, with additional oversight of wastewater and stormwater networks.
Most three waters assets and services in New Zealand are owned and delivered by local councils.
While addressing the regulatory issues, both central and local government have identified under-investment in three waters infrastructure in parts of the country and persistent affordability issues for ratepayers, as well as the need for additional investment to meet improvements in freshwater outcomes and increase resilience to climate change and natural hazards.
The proposal hands water services from the 67 councils who currently manage services. into four big regional water authorities. One entity is proposed to cover the Ngāi Tahu takiwa (All of the South Island excluding Nelson, Marlborough and Tasman).
Ownership would remain with Councils (mandated by legislation) and there would be protection to ensure the water entities do not become privatised without a public referendum with a 75 percent threshold.
- The Water Services Entities Act
- The Water Services Legislation Bill
- The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill
The Water Services Entities Act
The Water Services Legislation Bill
The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill
October 2023 General Election
The General Election is taking place in October and opposition parties have stated they intend to repeal the Three Waters Reform to date. This creates a high level of uncertainty but also an opportunity for this important reform process to be undertaken in a manner that has wider political support across parliament.
What could it mean for Waimakariri?
The Three Waters reform programme will significantly change the way critical water infrastructure and services are delivered in our District. In the mandated changes, Waimakariri District will be part of Entity D which covers the bulk of the South Island.
Our elected members are very concerned by this recent decision from the Government and are now working with Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) and a collective of other councils for a better outcome for our community.
In Waimakariri we have heavily invested in our water infrastructure and security on behalf of our community and with our environment in mind.
Our water-related assets together have a value of $602 million, which is 29 percent of Council’s total assets (excluding land under roads).
Over the last 20 years we’ve invested over $100M in water infrastructure which is high quality and have a planned programme to ensure it stays this way. We have a 100 year strategy to fund these assets for our community.
A further $41 million is allocated in the Long Term Plan to support drinking water safety upgrades, improve our wastewater treatment infrastructure and address flood risks in our District.
Because of this investment, we are well positioned for the future.
Membership of Communities 4 Local Democracy - He hapori mo te Manapori
Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mo te Manapori is a new local government action group committed to working with central government to ensure all New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water and that all of our local communities continue to have a say on the use of assets purchased on their behalf using ratepayer funds.
The group’s campaign is inclusive – it’s about safe drinking water for all New Zealanders – whoever and wherever they are. It is also apolitical – we’re completely focused on the issue regardless of political affiliation.
Waimakariri District Council is a founding member of C4LD. Mayor Dan Gordon is Deputy Chair of the group.
Updated 8 February 2023
The Minister of Local Government has also issues a number of press releases relating to the Reform proposal. These can be found here:
- February 2023. Government takes new direction with policy refocus
- December 2022. New legislation to provide affordable water services for New Zealanders
- December 2022. Next steps in securing affordable water services for New Zealanders
- November 2022. Changes make water reforms more workable for communities and councils
- July 2022. Government provides Three Waters support for councils
- June 2022. New legislation to improve water services and protect community ownership
- April 2022. Council ownership of waters entities confirmed
- March 2022. Government to consider three waters recommendations following Working Group report
- The full list of media statements can be found here.
The below further information shows proposed boundaries, further details on the proposed water services entities, including governance arrangements, the role of iwi, and how they would be regulated:
- LGNZ - Water Services Legislation Bill and Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protecting Bill Submission Outline
- Beehive Press Release - Government to protect vital public water services for future generations. 27 October, 2021
- Central/Local Government Three Waters Reform Programme
- A new system for three waters service delivery - the number and boundary of entities needs to balance scale with other factors
- Beehive Media Release - Government water reforms to build economic resilience and save ratepayers money
A dashboard of Waimakariri information was also been released:
- Council Dashboards (This link has recently been removed from the DIA website. We are looking to source and resupply this data.)
- Council Dashboard FAQs
Updated 11 July 2023
Waimakariri calls for pause, and Govt to seek mandate for Three Waters
The Government needs to pause and seek a mandate before pushing any further ahead with its controversial Three Water Reforms, says Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon.
Mayor Dan Gordon spoke on behalf of the Council last week in opposition to the Government’s Water Services Entities Amendment bill at the Governance and Administration Select Committee hearing.
“This Bill shouldn’t go ahead because it’s based on flawed assumptions, models not suitable for New Zealand, and there’s no mandate from Kiwis nationwide. This process overall should be stopped until at least after the General Election in October,” says Mayor Gordon.
“A pause is the most sensible option. This is because if the current government is re-elected then they will have won an electoral mandate to push ahead, on the other hand, if a new government is elected, they won’t have to waste precious reform time repealing poor legislation.”
In the submission, the Council recognised there was a need for change in water provision, but this Bill didn’t go far enough address the matters of concern to councils and their communities
“The government continues to push ahead with the removal of assets from communities resulting in the loss of control that ownership confers on them,” said Mayor Gordon.
“The Waimakariri community does not support this and the loss of ownership and effective control is the crux of the issue.
“There is a better way to undertake Three Waters Reform and our Council as well as Communities 4 Local Democracy (C4LD) we’ve provided models and alternatives that would deliver on the Government’s objectives.
“We genuinely want a reform that works for all. We don’t support this bill and ask for it not to proceed further pending the outcome of the general election.”
Otherwise the Council has been advocating as part of Communities 4 Local Democracy (C4LD) throughout the reform process. You can find media releases from C4LD here.