3 Waters Reform

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.

Full information can be found on the Department for Internal Affairs website.

The Government is implementing reform of water services through a suite of three pieces of legislation:

  • 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 Entities Act establishes the new water services entities so they are ready to provide services from 1 July 2024.

As well as setting up the new entities to be ready in two years’ time, the Bill locks in council ownership of the WSEs. Councils will have one share per 50,000 people in their area, rounded up – so each council will have at least one share.

The legislation ensures communities will have a say in the running of the new water organisations through council and iwi oversight, while giving them the financial and operational independence they need to get on with the job.

You can read more about the Act here: The Water Services Entities Bill

The Water Services Legislation Bill

The Water Services Legislation Bill has been referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, which has called for public submissions. Public submissions closed on 12 February 2023 and council could make submissions until 17 February 2023.

The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill

Also introduced to Parliament in December 2022, the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill implements Cabinet’s agreement to establish an economic regulation and consumer protection regime as part of the Three Waters Reform.

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.

You can learn more about C4LD here.

Updated 8 February 2023

The Department of Internal Affairs hosts a raft of information about the Three Waters Reform proposal. You can find out everything about the DIA programme of reform on this link.

In December 2022 the Water Services Entities Bill went through Parliament select committee. The latest about this process is here.

The Minister of Local Government has also issues a number of press releases relating to the Reform proposal. These 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:

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.”

You can find the Council's recent media releases relating to Three Waters Reform on the news page of the website.

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.

Last reviewed date: 09 Aug 2023