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.
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.
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 transferring responsibility for the infrastructure and delivery of Aotearoa's three waters (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) to four publicly-owned Water Service Entities.
These water service entities aim for all New Zealanders to 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 had its first hearing in June 2022.
Government has established a National Transition Unit to implement and oversee the transition of water services delivery from 67 councils to four new water services entities by 1 July 2024.
We are following what is required of us. This includes providing the National Transition Unit information on things such as stocktakes of our three waters functions and staff roles responsible for service delivery, asset management plans, work programmes and existing bylaws.
In June 2021, the Government released four reports as part of the evidence base to support proposed reforms. They followed the initial analysis from the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) which was recently released. The reports were part of the evidence base for reform at a national level but didn't speak to implications for individual councils.
You can find out more about the background to these reports on the Department of Internal Affairs website.
Our Council expressed a view that while it supports the overarching principles and objectives of the reform, it has real concerns about the planned approach which it sees as one-size-fits-all, overly complex and difficult to implement.
The Council has been concerned about governance and ownership aspects of the proposed model — specifically, loss of control and connection — and in particular how each council’s priorities would be acknowledged and delivered, and how the voice of local communities would be retained.
We do not consider financial modelling supporting the reform proposals accurately reflected the Kāpiti situation, and projected future financial benefits of the reforms are very uncertain for Kāpiti.
As part of our own due diligence, we engaged international consultants, Castalia, to help us analyse WICS’ model. Castalia’s analysis, Advice on Three Waters – Report to the Kāpiti Coast District Council[PDF 818 KB], along with our own interrogation of the model, has demonstrated that the model does not accurately represent the Kāpiti Coast situation.
Kāpiti has a good track record of delivering quality drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater outcomes for our community and we want to ensure that our community’s needs continue to be prioritised and met in the face of climate change and unprecedented growth.
We are committed to achieving positive three waters outcomes for the Kāpiti Coast community, and we will continue to advocate for our district’s interests.
We are asking the Government for a fair deal. Investing in maintaining and upgrading our three waters infrastructure has meant our infrastructure is in good condition, however we have borrowed money to achieve this and we want to ensure that our ratepayers are appropriately reimbursed for this.
Losing three waters assets also impacts our ability to borrow for other community-based infrastructure and improvements.
Read more about What's next.