Central Government is reviewing how to improve the regulation and supply of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) in New Zealand.
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 review, which began in 2017, 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 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.
In July 2020, Government announced a funding package to local authorities to maintain and improve three waters infrastructure, and to support reform of local government water services delivery arrangements. The Government indicated that its starting intention is public multi-regional models for water service delivery to realise the benefits of scale for communities and reflect neighbouring catchments and communities of interest. There is a preference that entities will be in shared ownership of local authorities.
To be eligible for this funding, councils must take part in the initial stage of the Reforms programme. This does not commit councils to participating in further phases of the programme, or to establishing new entities or transferring assets. It is a commitment to work together with Government and regional partners to explore the local impacts of a proposal to amalgamate water assets and services, and what those changes would mean for ratepayers.