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Central Government Three Waters Reform

Additional information for the Hawke's Bay Three Waters Review from the Department of Internal Affairs.

New Zealand’s Government is reforming how drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (three waters) services are delivered across New Zealand. The reforms began in response to the issues identified following the Havelock North drinking water contamination in 2016.

There are three parts to the reforms:

  1. A new regulatory authority
  2. New standards and responsibilities for water suppliers
  3. New three waters service delivery arrangements.

Earlier this year, the Taumata Arowai Water Services Regulator Act came into effect. This legislation creates a new regulatory authority to oversee, administer and enforce a revised three waters regulatory system.

Government has also introduced the Water Services Bill, setting out the new responsibilities that will be imposed on drinking water suppliers and proposing new arrangements relating to sources of drinking water Submissions on the bill are likely to be called in September.

These reforms will have significant implications and challenges for three waters service delivery and councils across the country will need to adapt their approaches to meet the new requirements.

The indicative timeline for the Government’s reform process is as follows:


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 has invited councils to opt in to a partnership process to reform three waters service delivery arrangements, and by doing so, allow councils to access the $761 million.

Hawke’s Bay will be allocated $50million, which is 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 have shown in proactively working together to investigate regional service delivery options.Government Three Waters Reform Programme

In late August, the four local councils of the region opted in to the first phase of the Central Government reform programme. Hawke’s Bay will use the findings from our own Review to partner in the service delivery arrangements reform process.

Central Governments view is that a partnership approach with local government 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. With this in mind, a joint Three Waters Steering Committee has been formed to provide oversight and guidance on Three Waters services delivery and infrastructure reform.

The Government has 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. New water service delivery entities would also need to have mechanisms for enabling iwi to provide input.

You can find out more about these changes here.

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. 

You can find more information on the Government's Three Waters reform here.

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