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 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 - November 2018:

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Health Minister David Clark have announced (November 2018) work to overhaul three waters regulation as part of the Three Waters Review. This is part of an ongoing reform programme to transform drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. The programme is focused on collaborating with the local government sector, the water sector and other stakeholders to meet the three-waters challenges facing it. These include funding pressures, rising environmental standards, climate change, seasonal pressure from tourism, and the recommendations of the Havelock North Inquiry.

Direction of the review:

  • Regulatory arrangements for drinking water and wastewater: the immediate priority for the review is the detailed policy work on the overarching shape and form of regulatory arrangements for drinking water and wastewater. The Ministers of Local Government, Health, and the Environment intend to take detailed proposals on this to Cabinet in June 2019. 
  • Service delivery and economic regulation: this is part of a longer ongoing conversation with local government and the water and infrastructure sectors. Options for further investigation have been identified and detailed advice to enable consideration of their relative merits will be put to Cabinet towards the end of 2019.   
  • Engagement: central government, through the cross-agency project team, is working with councils, iwi/Māori and stakeholders with an interest in three waters services to engage on options for the shape and form of the regulatory arrangements, and to inform the ongoing conversation relating to service delivery and economic regulation. 

Full details are available in the Cabinet Paper Future state of the three waters system: regulation and service delivery (below)

Three waters review - key documents

Review in summary:

Cabinet papers and minutes:


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

Context statement:

Earlier reports:


Presentations, speeches and media releases:

Media releases:

Minister's speeches:


Contact Details

For enquiries, please email Please state if you do not wish to receive updates on to the Three Waters Review.

Related information

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