Joint Three Waters Steering Committee Update - 17 August 2020

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Tēnā koutou katoa,

  • The Society of Local Government Managers, Local Government New Zealand, the Department of Internal Affairs, and the Treasury have formed a Steering Committee that will work in partnership to provide oversight and guidance to support progress towards reform of three waters services.
  • The Steering Committee includes Mayors, Chief Executives, Regional Council and Te Maruata representation and is independently chaired by Brian Hanna.
  • The Committee currently meets fortnightly and will provide updates to you as local government Mayors, Chairs and Chief Executives through this channel. If you have any questions or comments for the Steering Committee you may email them to this mailbox.
  • The contents of this email can be shared, as you consider appropriate, with elected members and staff (including Infrastructure and Water Services Managers). Sensitive material will be sent separately and marked NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION.

Report on Three Waters Steering Committee workshops

  • During the last two weeks of July and the first week of August, the Steering Committee held workshops at 14 venues around the country. More than 1000 people attended.
  • The purpose of the workshops was to explain the background and basis of the Government’s $761 million three waters stimulus and reform funding, outline the reform proposals, get feedback and input into the proposals and the reform programme from the sector, and to inform territorial authorities of requirements to qualify for their allocation of the fund.
  • The Committee would like to thank all those who gave up their time at short notice to attend, and for the constructive participation of participants throughout the country, from Whangarei to Invercargill. The workshops were well-attended and extremely valuable.
  • The questions and issues raised confirmed many of the Committee’s own matters for investigation as part of the work programme ahead, and raised others.
  • A detailed summary report on the workshops is being compiled and will shortly be sent to Mayors, Chairs, Chief Executives and workshop attendees. The report notes key themes and questions raised and provides guidance on these as far as is possible at this point.

Memorandum of Understanding and DIA communication

  • Importantly, the workshops addressed the essential first step for territorial authorities to qualify for their grant allocations: signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Crown.
  • A model version of the MoU has been available on the Three Waters Reform Programme webpage (https://www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme) for viewing. An editable form is now available, and you will receive a copy of this today from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) along with relevant guidance.
  • These will need to be completed and returned to DIA by 31 August.

Resurgence of COVID-19

  • The Steering Committee notes the unfortunate resurgence of COVID-19, the possible escalation of Alert Levels and the potential impact of this on councils.
  • While the immediate deadline requirements for stimulus grant allocation remain (MoU, 31 August; Funding Agreement and Delivery Plan, 30 September), the Committee will be keeping a watching brief on developments and will be considering future programme timelines in the context of the operating environment.

Steering Committee’s future work

  • The Steering Committee is looking ahead to the demanding and ambitious work programme and considering how best to work with the sector on this.
  • A number of workstreams will require expertise and experience from the sector and we will be establishing appropriate technical working groups to contribute to and guide reform design. We will keep you informed on progress.
  • As we begin to move into a different phase of the programme, we are also considering the membership of the Committee, prompted by movements within the sector and a need to ensure that we have an appropriate and representative mix for the work ahead.

National funding allocation spreadsheet

  • There have been a number of inquiries as to the basis of the funding allocation to councils. The calculus spreadsheet is now available on the Three Waters Reform Programme webpage: https://www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme under Key documents.
  • The calculations have been done on a national basis (i.e. councils are being compared with all others in the country for each of the two variables (75 per cent population and 25 per cent land area, excluding national parks) rather than just within their regions.
  • Updated funding allocation FAQs are also now available on the webpage.

Regional conversations

  • The Steering Committee would like to acknowledge the participation of regional forums across the country in discussions on the allocation of the regional portions of the stimulus and reform funds, and to thank forum chairs and participants for their leadership on this matter.

Three Waters Steering Committee
Email: 3WatersSteeringGroup@dia.govt.nz