Joint Three Waters Reform Steering Committee Update, 19 November 2020

Return to: Three Waters Reform Programme

Tēnā koutou katoa,

This email from the joint Central/Local Government Three Waters Steering Committee has been sent to Mayors, Chairs, and Chief Executives only, and should be shared with your colleagues as appropriate (more information on the Steering Committee is provided at the bottom of this email*).

Technical reference group meetings

Next Monday (23 November), two of the technical reference groups are meeting to discuss the emerging thinking in areas of the reform programme. (More information on the reference groups is provided at the bottom of this email**).

This work will inform the next Steering Committee meeting on 30 November 2020.

An overview of the what will be discussed at these meetings is provided below.

System Design Reference Group

  • Canvas a range of consumer and community interests and options for how these could be reflected in entity design;
  • Discuss early thinking on entity purpose, functions and governance/ownership;
  • Discuss the interface between water entities and the RMA and Local Government planning systems; and
  • Introduction to economic regulation and possible roles it could play in the system.

Water Infrastructure Technical Group

  • Discuss early thinking of entity design around council control and financial sustainability of entities, and considerations for local government finances;
  • Discuss the interface between water entities and the RMA and Local Government planning systems; and
  • Discuss the role of water services entities in the provision of stormwater services.

Three Waters presence at sector events

This week, members of the Three Waters team have been present at a number of sector conferences and events alongside appearances from the Minister of Local Government and Taumata Arowai. Including:

  • The Water NZ conference and pre-conference Taumata Arowai workshop: the Minister gave an opening address on the Reform programme, our team held a session on the Water Services Bill, and with SOLGM presented on the Request for Information (RfI) and held drop-in sessions for council staff completing the RfI;
  • The LGFA Investor days in Auckland and Wellington:  DIA presented on the reforms;
  • The Infrastructure NZ, Building Nations Symposium: the Minister provided a message on the reform programme, and Bill Bayfield and Heather Shotter were on a panel discussion of the water reforms; and
  • The LGNZ Rural and Provincial Sector Meeting: the Steering Committee provided a panel to discuss its work.

We will endeavour to continue to be accessible at such events, so please feel free to approach the team and discuss our mahi.

The Request for Information

As we round the fourth week of the Request for Information we would like to acknowledge the mahi of those council staff that are working through the workbooks.

Councils have until 1 February 2021 to complete this RfI which will inform detailed analysis to support advice on the options for reform to the Steering Committee, local government elected members and Ministers over the coming months.

Council nominated leads have been very active in engaging with the work and raising questions as soon as they arise. This enables us to share lessons and FAQs with other councils yet to approach these challenges.

The SOLGM Account Managers have made direct contact with all council nominated leads to ensure they are tracking well and have ready access to support as needed, and the WICS (Water Industry Commission for Scotland) team has set up one-on-one meetings with those councils completing the more detailed request.

We now have a total of 47 councils (69%) in the representative sample completing the more detailed RfI.

The online drop-in clinic schedule, summary reports from these clinics and a series of instructional videos are available on the RfI webpage.

First instalment of stimulus funding

The Department has now approved all of the council Delivery Plans. As at midday 19 November 2020, 21 councils have received their initial funding instalment (50% of their total allocation).

Remaining councils will receive their initial funding instalment once they have returned appropriate documentation to the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).  DIA anticipates that this first instalment will be paid to all eligible councils by the end of November.

Engagement with mana whenua

Following the series of Crown engagement with iwi/Māori DIA has produced a draft report to reflect these hui.

 This draft report was sent to hui participants last week to ensure this accurately reflected views expressed ahead of finalising a report. This should be available on the Reform Programme webpage early in December 2020.

This series of  hui, led by DIA as Crown Treaty partner, is part of an ongoing programme of engagement on the reform programme with iwi/Māori.

Future engagement with local government

 We have consistently heard, including during our previous round of engagement, requests for localised data to be applied to modelling on potential future water services arrangements, and a desire to engage on tangible future options.

In addition to the work of the Steering Committee and technical reference groups, the Reform Programme expects to conduct a further intensive round of engagement with the local government sector and with iwi/Māori to test and seek views on a range of detailed reform options.

This will, in part, be informed by the analysis of the information provided through the Request for Information. Councils have until 1 February 2021 to complete this RfI. As such, we anticipate the next round of intensive engagement will be in March 2021.

Looking forward (changes from last week’s update are in bold)

DIA officials will be continuing to engage with the Minister of Local Government and Three Waters Ministers about next steps on the Three Waters Reform Programme.

Following this early engagement with the new Government, officials expect to provide further detail before Christmas regarding the key milestones and timetable for reform, including a further significant round of sector and iwi/Māori engagement around March 2021.

Steering Committee priorities for the next three months include:

  • Release of Three Waters stimulus funding
  • Supporting councils to complete the Request for Information
  • Proposed approach to community consultation and councils’ decision making on reform proposals, including implications for LTPs
  • Identifying and understanding options for ownership, governance and control arrangements for water services entities
  • Development of advice on water entities interface with the planning system
  • Financial consideration for transfer of water services assets & debt and implications for local government finances
  • Further work to support decisions about the number and boundaries of water services entities
  • Ongoing engagement on the reform programme, including planning the next series of formal workshops/hui timed for March 2021.

**Technical reference groups

  • The technical reference groups have been assembled with SOLGM and LGNZ assistance to support the work of the Steering Committee. There are to be three groups including:
  • System Design Group: this is a senior reference group to test issues around overall system and institutional design, entity purpose, ownership, governance, accountability, funding models, etc. It will have a membership drawn from chief executives, chief financial officers, chief legal officers, and tier 2 infrastructure managers.
  • Water Infrastructure Technical Group: this is a technical advisory group comprising water infrastructure experts to test more technical issues related to the reform programme. Membership includes asset managers, water engineers, and other experts with knowledge of three waters assets and finances. It will have a mix of experts from the water sector, service providers and Councils.

*The Joint Three Waters Steering Committee

  • The Committee was formed following agreement, at the Prime Minister’s Central/Local Government Forum in mid-May, between senior Government Ministers and LGNZ’s National Council to work in partnership towards three waters service delivery reform.
  • It comprises Mayors, Chief Executives, Regional Council and Te Maruata representation as well as the Society of Local Government Managers, Local Government New Zealand, the Department of Internal Affairs, and the Treasury.
  • The Committee provides oversight and guidance and works to ensure that a broad range of interests and perspectives are considered through the reform process.
  • These updates are posted to the Three Waters Reform webpage where you will also find key documents relating to the Steering Committee’s work and to the overall three waters reform programme:  

 Ngā mihi,

 Three Waters Steering Committee