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Three Waters Reform

Three Waters Reform

Updated 4 October 2021 1:01pm

The Government is considering how best to regulate and deliver drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services. Together, these are the Three Waters.

Greater Wellington is different from city or district councils as we do not deliver wastewater and stormwater services. We are responsible for bulk water supply (drinking water) to the Wellington, Porirua, Hutt and Upper Hutt city councils. Those councils provide the drinking water to end consumers. Council-Controlled Organisation (CCO), Wellington Water Limited, manages the assets and provides the service on behalf of Greater Wellington. Wellington Water Limited also provides water services on behalf of its other owners Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council and South Wairarapa District Council.

At the moment, across New Zealand 67 different councils, including Greater Wellington, own and operate the majority of the country’s water services.

There are many challenges to deliver these services into the future in an affordable way, including:

  • Ageing infrastructure
  • Population growth and;
  • The impacts of climate change.

The Government’s Three Waters Reform proposes four larger public entities which would own water services assets and deliver all water services. We would be in ‘Entity C’ with 22 other councils from the east coast of the North Island, the Wellington Region and the top of the South Island.

The Three Waters Reform is a big issue for all councils affected by it. We are taking it very seriously, to ensure a good outcome for the Wellington Region.

The way forward has not been decided yet. Changes would not come into place until 2024. In the meantime, we will continue to deliver bulk water to the city councils via Wellington Water.

It’s early days and there is a lot for us to work though. We will keep this page updated as the reform evolves.

To learn more, look on the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) website and on the Local Government New Zealand website.

In 2016 the Government decided to examine the regulatory and delivery environment for Three Waters services.

The government established Taumata Arowai, a new water services regulator, to administer and enforce a new drinking water regulatory system. Once Taumata Arowai is fully functional (by early 2022), it will:

  • Oversee and administer an expanded and strengthened drinking water regulatory system
  • Oversee the environmental performance of wastewater networks and;
  • Oversee the environmental performance of stormwater networks.

Currently 85 percent of the country has drinking water delivered by councils, the rest are on private supplies.

The Government commissioned analysis from Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS). This estimates New Zealand would need to invest $120 billion to $185 billion in its Three Waters infrastructure over the next 30 years to meet drinking water and environmental standards and provide for future population growth.

What’s happened so far?

Last year, Greater Wellington (along with every other council that delivers water services) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU means we have agreed to work with the Government on water reform. It does not mean we or any other council has agreed to opt into the reform.

The Government has given us until the end of September to analyse the WICS data and information provided by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and consider the implications for our region. No decisions are required. Following feedback from councils, the Government will decide the next steps in the process.

Where is it all at?

We are working through the extensive information provided by the DIA to better understand how the proposals would affect our region. We will consider alternatives to the proposals and identify issues of local concern. This will allow the Government to consider ways of addressing these.

The proposal indicates the entities would have an independent board which would be responsible for delivery of services to the community. Councils and mana whenua would be represented in a governance role. This structure is not finalised. Councils would not hold a financial shareholding interest in these new entities.

Assets would be transferred to the new entity. The entity would be the new owner of these assets, and deliver the services.

The cost of water services are currently paid by everyone in their rates bill. This would be removed and billed separately by the water entity – just as you receive a bill for electricity supply.

The proposed entities are intended to have the scale, capacity and capability to improve service delivery at an affordable cost. The proposals also mention a suite of mechanisms to protect Māori/iwi rights and interests and prevent privatisation. An economic regulator would be appointed to protect consumer interests and provide strong incentives for performance.

Read our feedback on the Three Waters Reform