Three Waters Reform

In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements.

Currently 67 different councils own and operate the majority of the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services across New Zealand.

The Government says the programme seeks to ensure no council is worse off and every community is better off after reform. It also sets councils up to focus on community wellbeing – and creates a precedent for working more closely with the Government.

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

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has released a map (below) showing the proposed boundaries of the three entities.

We would be included in entity A (all of Auckland and Northland) and our Council is in the process of giving the Government feedback on the map and hasn't firmed up a position on the overall proposal and boundaries yet. 

At the Local Government NZ (LGNZ) Conference in mid-July the Government announced a $2.5 billion package for councils as part of its three waters reform.

The package has three financial components:

  1. Support for local government to invest in communities’ wellbeing. This part of the investment totals $2 billion, with $500 million being available from 1 July 2022. It will be allocated between councils according to a nationally consistent formula, reflecting population (75 per cent), deprivation (20 per cent) and land area (5 per cent).
  2. Targeted support to ensure no councils are financially worse off as a result of transferring their three waters assets. This is designed to protect councils from any negative financial consequences of the asset transfer.
  3. Cover of reasonable transition costs. This is intended to make sure council service delivery (including of water services) during the transition isn’t compromised by the work needed to make the transition happen.

What does this mean for our Council?

We’re waiting further information from DIA. As part of the announcement, it was noted that DIA is still to publish more detail about the package, including individual council allocations. This will assist our staff in understanding the implications of the announcement for our District and communities.  

The Three Waters Reform could potentially significantly change the way water infrastructure and services are delivered in our District.

What are the next steps?

During the next eight weeks following the July announcement every council has a chance to take a close look at the reform proposals and assess their impact on them and their community.

After the eight-week period, the Government will consider next steps, including the process and revised timing for decision-making. No decisions on this have been made, or will be made, until after this engagement period.

During this eight-week period of analysis and consideration, LGNZ will support councils to understand what the package means for them. 

There is a commitment from all parties for the need to spend more time working through some issues that are important to all of us.

These are:

  • Ensuring all communities have both a voice in the system and influence over local decisions. This means being sure the water entities understand and act on communities’ needs and wants, including responding to localised concerns like a desire for chlorine-free water.
  • Effective representation on the new water entities’ oversight boards so that there is strong accountability to the communities they serve. This includes effective assurance that entities, which will remain in public ownership, cannot be privatised in future.
  • Making sure councils’ plans for growth are appropriately integrated with water services planning.

It is also noted that staff who work primarily on water will be guaranteed a role at the new water service entities. This role will retain key features of their current role including salary, terms and critically – location.

Where can you find more information on the reform

You can view the overview of the programme here

You can also read more information on the reform programme on the DIA and LGNZ websites. 

So, what do other councils think?

You can find out what other councils around New Zealand think of this reform via this article written by Newsroom