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Government Three Waters Reforms

The Governments Three Waters review consists of three pou / parts (improved regulation, Taumata Arowai, and service delivery) focused on reforming how three waters services are regulated and delivered across New Zealand. It began in response to the issues identified following the Havelock North drinking water contamination back in 2016.

In July 2020, the three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements was launched and builds on progress made through the Three Waters Review and establishment of Taumata Arowai.

Currently 67 different councils own and operate the majority of the drinking water, waste water and stormwater services across New Zealand. Local councils are facing urgent challenges in providing these services, including maintaining existing network infrastructure, complying with safety standards and environmental expectations, building resilience to natural hazards and climate change into three waters networks, and supporting growth.

Government has decided comprehensive, system-wide reform is needed to achieve lasting benefits for local councils, communities and the environment.

The Government’s starting intention is to reform local government’s three waters services into a small number of multi-regional entities with a bottom line of public ownership. The exact size, shape and design of these entities is still being worked through.

The Government is progressing the reform programme through a voluntary partnership-based approach with local councils (including Hawke’s Bay’s), alongside iwi/Māori as the Crown’s treaty partner.

Once the details of the new arrangements have been decided by Government, Councils will need to decide whether or not they want to become part of the new model for the future delivery of three waters services; and only after they have consulted with their communities.

The Government’s reform programme is being progressed through a voluntary partnership-based approach with local councils (including Hawke’s Bay’s), alongside iwi/Māori.

A Joint Three Waters Steering Committee has been established to provide oversight and guidance to support progress towards reform, and to assist in engaging with local government, iwi/Māori and other water sector stakeholders on options and proposals.

In July 2020, the Government announced a funding package of $761 million to provide immediate post-COVID-19 stimulus to local authorities to maintain and improve three waters (drinking water, wastewater, stormwater) infrastructure, and to support reform of local government water services delivery arrangements.

Government invited councils to opt into a partnership process to reform three waters service delivery arrangements, and by doing so, allow councils to access the $761 million. Government’s view is that a partnership approach with local councils will best support the wider community interests and ensure that any transition to new service delivery arrangements is well managed and as smooth as possible.

Hawke’s Bay’s four local councils opted in and were between them allocated $50million, made up of an allocation for each local council based on population and land area; with a top up in recognition of the leadership and progress Hawke’s Bay’s councils had already shown in proactively working together to investigate regional service delivery options in its own Hawke’s Bay Three Waters Review. You can find out more about how Hawke’s Bay’s councils are putting the funding to work here.

The Government has indicated that its starting intention is publicly owned, multi-regional models for water service delivery to realise the benefits of scale for communities and reflect neighbouring catchments and communities of interest.

The government has defined the following key design features for service delivery arrangements.

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There is a preference that entities will be in the shared ownership of local authorities. New water service delivery entities would also need to have mechanisms for enabling iwi to provide input.

The Government has indicated that its reform programme will examine at a minimum:

      • Water service delivery entities that of significant scale, are asset owning, structured as statutory entities and are publicly owned
      • Delivery of drinking water and waste water services are a priority – storm water where effective and efficient
      • Must have mechanisms for enabling iwi/Māori input
      • The potential size of entities will need to be considered against
      • Potential to scale benefits at a multi-regional level
      • Alignment of geographical boundaries to encompass natural communities of interest
      • Relationships with relevant regulatory boundaries, particularly to enable water to be managed from source to the sea.

Any Questions

Contact your local Council

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