Taumata Arowai Establishment Unit

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See also: Three Waters Review


In September 2019, Cabinet made decisions about the creation of a new Water Services Regulator to administer and enforce the new drinking water regulatory system, while contributing to improved environmental outcomes from wastewater and stormwater networks. Cabinet also agreed that an Establishment Unit should be created within the Department of Internal Affairs to carry out preparatory work towards the establishment of this entity. Initial steps in setting up the Establishment Unit began in November 2019.

The regulator will be known as Taumata Arowai. The name of the organisation, contained in the legislation Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill that establishes it, conveys the weight, responsibility and authority of the regulator. Taumata is a term associated with a summit, symposium or congress. Taumata invokes a sense of protection and wisdom.  Arowai is a compound word composed of ‘aro’ and ‘wai’. Aro means to give attention to, to focus on, or be in the presence of. Wai is water.

In December 2019, the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill was introduced to Parliament and had its first reading. The Bill establishes Taumata Arowai as a Crown Agent and provides for its objectives and general functions, including:

  • administering and enforcing a new drinking water regulatory system (including the management of risks to sources of drinking water); and
  • a small number of complementary functions relating to improving the environmental performance of wastewater and stormwater networks.

A complementary Bill, the Water Services Bill, is also being prepared to give effect to Cabinet’s decisions on reforming the drinking water regulatory framework, and Taumata Arowai’s new wastewater and stormwater monitoring functions. This Bill is anticipated to be introduced by mid-2020.

The approaches provided for in the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill, and in the broader package of regulatory reforms, are intended to address issues and opportunities that were highlighted by the Government Inquiry into the Havelock North Drinking Water, and in the Government’s Three Waters Review.  These reforms are designed to:

  • provide clear leadership for drinking water regulation through a new, dedicated regulator;
  • significantly strengthen compliance, monitoring, and enforcement relating to drinking water regulation, and equip the new regulator with the powers and resources needed to build capability, support suppliers of all kinds to meet their regulatory obligations, and take a tougher, more consistent approach to enforcement where needed;
  • manage risks to drinking water safety and ensure source waters are protected;
  • ensure more people can access water that is safe to drink, by requiring all suppliers (except individual domestic self-suppliers) to be part of the regulatory system, and to provide safe drinking water on a consistent basis;
  • lift the environmental performance and transparency of wastewater and stormwater networks; and
  • improve national-level leadership, oversight, and support relating to wastewater and stormwater.  

These intentions are reflected throughout the legislation, including in Taumata Arowai’s objectives, functions, and operating principles.

Establishment Unit Chief Executive

Bill Bayfield has been appointed as Establishment Chief Executive of the Taumata Arowai Establishment Unit, commencing this position in May 2020.

Mr Bayfield is an experienced chief executive with an in-depth knowledge of water and environmental regulation. In the first instance, he will report to the Establishment Board of Taumata Arowai and, once it is operational, to the full board.

Māori Advisory Group

A Māori Advisory Group will provide advice and guidance to Taumata Arowai. It will play an important role in ensuring Taumata Arowai is established with the systems, processes and capability to support it to uphold the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and to engage with and understand Iwi/Māori perspectives, in such a way that this approach is integral to  the organisation  in the longer term.

Legal status

Taumata Arowai will become a legal entity with the enactment of the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill, which is anticipated to occur by the end of July 2020. However, Taumata Arowai will not become fully operational until enactment of the Water Services Bill, projected to be towards the middle of 2021.

Until Taumata Arowai is fully operational, the Ministry of Health will remain the regulator for drinking water safety.

Timelines and milestones

Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill

  • December 2019: Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill introduced to the House, has its first reading and is referred to the Health Committee.
  • December 2019:  Health Committee calls for submissions on the Bill.
  • 4 March 2020: submissions on the Bill close.
  • Hearings are likely to occur during March 2020.
  • The Bill is due to be reported back to the House by mid-June 2020.
  • Subject to House time and priorities, it is anticipated the remaining Parliamentary stages will take place in late June and July 2020.
  • On enactment of this Bill, Taumata Arowai will become a legal entity .

The Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill and its progress can be viewed on the Parliament website here: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_93442/taumata-arowai-the-water-services-regulator-bill

Water Services Bill

  • Anticipated to be introduced into the House in May-June 2020.
  • Future stages are dependent upon House time and Parliamentary decisions.
  • It is anticipated this Bill will be enacted during 2021.

Taumata Establishment Board and interim Māori Advisory Group

  • The Establishment Board for Taumata Arowai, and the interim Māori Advisory Group, are expected to be in place by mid-2020.

Taumata Arowai – status

  • Taumata Arowai will becomes a legal entity following enactment of the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill, which is anticipated to be by end of July 2020.
  • Taumata Arowai will become fully operational following enactment of the Water Services Bill, expected to be in mid-2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

Taumata Arowai - key documents

Cabinet papers and minutes


Beca report - Cost Estimates for Upgrading Water Treatment Plants – March 2018 (PDF, 6MB)

News and Media

The Water Services Regulator Bill – Taumata Arowai a milestone for drinking water safety (12/12/2019)

Independent regulator to make drinking water safe (25/10/2019)

Dedicated watchdog for water quality (1/8/2019)

Wellbeing and water - a necessary conversation with Local Government (20/11/2018)

Counting the costs of safe, clean water (24/10/2018)


Contact us at: Taumata.Arowai@dia.govt.nz

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