Central Government is transforming the way drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) are delivered in Aotearoa.
This is to give New Zealanders confidence that drinking water is safe to use, sources of drinking water are adequately protected, and wastewater and stormwater are managed in environmentally sustainable ways.
The Reform Programme
In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements in a way that improves health and wellbeing outcomes to benefit all communities in New Zealand.
The Reform Programme stemmed from the campylobacter contamination in Havelock North’s drinking water supply in 2017 that saw more than 5,000 people become ill, with up to four deaths associated with the outbreak. A two-stage government review ensued and recommended several improvements, including establishing a large, aggregated water supplier and a stronger regulatory regime.
New delivery model
In October 2021, following substantial work to explore an integrated and extensive package of reform to the current system for delivering three waters services and infrastructure, the Government announced that it would be pursuing the move to transfer responsibility for the infrastructure and delivery of Aotearoa's three waters (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) to four publicly-owned water service entities.
These four publicly-owned water service entities will ensure all New Zealanders have access to safe, affordable water services that meet their expectations now and into the future. Kāpiti will be part of water service entity C, which covers from Gisborne in the North Island to Tasman in the South Island with about 1 million water connections.
In April 2022, Government accepted the majority of reform recommendations made by their Three Waters Working Group regarding representation, governance and accountability. Among other things, this confirms that:
- Local councils will retain ownership of water entities through a public shareholding structure, with shares allocated to councils reflective of the size of their communities (one share per 50,000 people); and
- Regional Representative Groups for each entity will have joint oversight from local councils and mana whenua to ensure community voice and provide tighter accountability.
The Government did not commit to ongoing taxpayer investment in water services which was also recommended by the working group.
Legislation to progress the establishment of the four entities was progressed in December 2021 and the Select Committee process for the draft Water Services Bill started in early 2022. The new water entities are due to come into force in 2024.
The Government has made the decision to progress the reforms nationally and public consultation will occur nationally rather than via local government.
We anticipate that there will be several opportunities for our community to get involved over the coming years as the reforms are expected to involve multiple pieces of legislation to implement. Progression of this legislation will likely include the opportunity for public submissions via the select committee process.
Council will be reiterating our concerns through submissions at each opportunity and encourages our community to do the same to ensure our local voice is heard.