Three Waters Review


The Government is reviewing how to improve the regulation and supply arrangements of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (three waters) to better support New Zealand’s prosperity, health, safety and environment. Most three waters assets and services, but not all, are owned and delivered by local councils.

The Three Waters Review is a cross-agency initiative led by the Minister of Local Government. Other involved agencies and portfolios include: Health, Environment, Finance, Business Innovation and Employment, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Primary Industries, Climate Change, Infrastructure, Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Housing and Urban Development, Transport, Conservation, and Rural Communities.

The review, beginning in mid-2017, ran in parallel to the latter stages of the Havelock North Inquiry into drinking water safety following the campylobacter outbreak in 2016. Up to 5500 people were ill as a result and four people are thought to have died from associated causes.

The initial findings of the review were consistent with many of the Havelock North Inquiry’s findings, and raised broader questions about the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for the three waters, and the capability and sustainability of water service providers.

Effective three waters services are essential for our communities

  • Our health and safety: depends on safe drinking water, safe disposal of wastewater and effective stormwater drainage.
  • Our prosperity: depends on adequate supply of cost effective three waters services for housing, businesses and community services.
  • Our environment: depends on well managed extraction of drinking water, and careful disposal of wastewater and stormwater.

Progress update – October 2019

Establishment Unit – Water Regulator

On 30 September, the Government agreed to establish the new drinking water regulator as an independent Crown entity.

The creation of the regulator as a Crown entity dedicated to drinking water quality and safety underscores the Government’s commitment to this critical area of public life and health. A standalone regulator will have the high degree of focus and independence needed to provide confidence in New Zealand’s regulatory regime for drinking water.

It will also contribute to fresh water outcomes by providing central oversight and guidance for the sector’s wastewater and stormwater regulatory functions.

An Establishment Unit is being created within the Department of Internal Affairs, with support from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for the Environment, to design and operationalise the new regulator. This work includes a range of planning and pre-establishment tasks to get the regulator up and running. Associated legislation will be introduced to Parliament in the coming months and is expected to be passed in 2020.

A joint announcement from the Ministers of Local Government and Health on the decision to locate the regulator within a new independent Crown entity is available at:

Questions and Answers on the new regulator are available here: Q & A on the new water regulator as a Crown entity

Further information is available in the Cabinet paper, Three Waters Review: Institutional Arrangements for a Drinking Water Regulator and the related Cabinet minute, below.

Earlier progress updates

Three waters review - key documents

Review in summary (updated 13 March 2019):

Cabinet papers and minutes (updated 25 October 2019):


Beca report – Additional Analysis on Drinking Water Costs for Compliance – November 2019

Three Waters Regulation: report on targeted stakeholder engagement – June 2019:

Cost estimates for upgrading Wastewater Treatment Plants to meet objective of the NPS Freshwater:

Context statement:

Earlier reports:


Department of Internal Affairs - LGNZ Reference Group: Summary of research and analysis (September 2018) (PDF, 2.1MB)

Presentations, speeches and media releases:

Media releases:

Minister's speeches:


Contact Details

For enquiries, please email

Related information

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