Three Waters services – drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater – are managed by 67 councils nationwide. Government is creating four publicly-owned regional entities to manage these services (instead of councils) from July 2024.
Hamilton City Council is opposed to the current four-entity model planned by Government.
Government says the reform addresses national challenges, including ageing infrastructure and historical under-investment by councils. There is also a bow-wave of wastewater plants to be reconsented, source water contamination, higher consumer expectations, the impacts of climate change and natural hazards and huge looming costs.
The Government's view is that current arrangements will not be able to address these challenges.
Two aspects of the reform have been completed – a change to regulations through the Water Services Bill, and the creation of a new regulator (Taumata Arowai) which has taken over drinking water compliance from Ministry of Health. The third phase is a change to the delivery of services, creating four new regional organisations to manage Three Waters services, instead of 67 individual councils.
Government says the changes will reduce future costs for ratepayers through economies of scale, will protect the environment and public health, support housing and infrastructure development and deliver services in an efficient and sustainable way.
Government says the new entities will:
- be publicly-owned by councils on behalf of communities, with strong protections against any future privatisation
- have joint oversight through Sub-regional and Regional Representative Groups made up of equal local government and mana whenua membership to ensure the entities are driven by community expectations and priorities
- have independent competency-based Boards to manage the entities and oversee the maintenance and renewal of infrastructure
- be financially separate from councils with a greater ability to borrow to fund long-term infrastructure
Government has also proposed a new economic regulatory regime and consumer protections to safeguard consumer interests and drive efficient investment and performance.
As the reform programme has developed Council has been advocating on behalf of its community, providing feedback to Government at every opportunity, and ensuring the organisation is prepared for any change.
If the Government meets its planned timelines, Council will not be delivering water services after July 2024. Hamilton's water services would be delivered by an entity covering Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, and parts of Manawatu-Whanganui.
Council's most recent submissions on the reform have been to a Working Party on governance aspects of the reform (February 2022), and to the Minister of Local Government and Government (October 2021). The full submissions are available below.
The Government's reform is complex and wide-ranging. For the latest updates and detailed information on all aspects of the reform please go to https://www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme