Steering Committee Update, 21 January 2021

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 (more information on the Steering Committee is provided at the bottom of this email*).

Please forward this update to your colleagues and elected members as appropriate.

 We hope you have had a safe and happy holiday

Welcome back, we hope you have all had a well-deserved and restful summer break.

We have prepared the attached brief summary clip of three waters related media from over the summer period for your information.

The year ahead

As you will all know, the Three Waters Reform Programme has an ambitious timetable with a busy policy workload, engagement schedule, and decisions in the year ahead. The proposed Reform timeline agreed by Cabinet is as follows:

 Strategy and timeline image

The Steering Committee is keen to build on the Partnership approach we developed last year to progress the reform programme at pace. We will continue to bring central and local government considerations together in a way that seeks to ensure the reforms achieve lasting benefits for the local government sector, our communities, our economy, and the environment.

Last year the Department released a number of key documents on the Three Waters Reform webpage and informed you of these through this update email. If you have not done so already, you may wish to engage with this material and  pass it on to your colleagues as appropriate. Of particular note is the December 2020 Cabinet Paperand the timeline, as above.

This Cabinet paper (among other things):

  • (re) confirms the Government’s intention to progress the reforms during this term;
  • seeks agreement to continue with the voluntary approach to the reforms;
  • Sets out the reform timeline for the reform programme; and
  • seeks agreement to early legislation to enable councils to take a decision on whether to continue to participate with the reforms or opt-out – this direction is important in light of questions about how future decisions on the reforms will affect LTPs and consultation requirements.

SOLGM have issued further guidance directly to councils on the LTP process and the reform programme in light of the decisions in this Cabinet paper.

Additionally, the Department released an initial report from the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) that was based on publicly available council information (LTPs, Annual Plans and Annual Reports). You can read the briefing to the Minister summarising this stage one report here and the full report on the Three Waters Reform webpage.

Upcoming RFI submissions: a fantastic effort to date

The Steering Committee would like to acknowledge the hard work council staff have been putting in over the final weeks of last year and early this year to progress their RFI submissions.

As we approach the 1 February due date, it is worth reflecting on the huge effort your colleagues have put in over the last few months. Collectively we are undertaking one of the largest efforts to understand New Zealand’s three waters services and this is no small achievement.

Through the SOLGM Account Managers we have had feedback from some council staff that they have found the experience valuable, noting the benefits of bringing together people from across council business to jointly build a better understanding of their three waters assets. Others have reflected on the benefit they have found in collaborating with their neighbouring councils through the RFI process. 

The information gathered under this RfI will help to develop a more mature understanding of the current state of councils’ water assets and services and, importantly, contribute towards the analysis of options for service delivery reform.

It will, for example, inform commercial and financial analysis, the WICS Stage 2 report, independent review of core assumptions, and other key inputs into the reform options analysis. While the WICS methodology is a key component of the process, it has always been critical that final analysis, options and actions arising from this, are informed by a range of inputs and sit firmly in the local context.

March workshops

An important part of the reform programme is to ensure this work is progressed in partnership with local government and the Crown’s Treaty partners. The next step in our engagement will be a series of workshops in March.

These will be supported by pre and post workshop communications opportunities. Further information on these will be provided as the details are settled.

The workshops will provide an opportunity to discuss a range of potential options for the proposed new water-service delivery arrangements. Feedback received in these workshops will inform advice to Ministers.

At the end of last year, we sent you Save the Date information on these workshops. We can now confirm the Zone 2 workshop date and location. All workshop dates and locations are as follows:

  • 9 March, Nelson (Te Tau Ihu);
  • 11 March, Palmerston North (Zone 3);
  • 12 March (afternoon only), Auckland (Auckland Zone);
  • 17 March, Wanaka (Zone 6);
  • 19 March, Wellington (Zone 4);
  • 23 March, Christchurch (Zone 5);
  • 26 March, Rotorua (Zone 2);
  • 30 March, Whangārei (Zone 1).

To enable a more detailed localised discussion on the reform proposals and implications for councils, we encourage you to attend the meeting that corresponds with your LGNZ Zone/region where possible, rather than travel to a workshop on an alternate date/location.

A formal invitation with further details on the workshops, and how to RSVP, will be sent to Mayors, CEs and iwi representatives shortly.

Please ensure your elected members and council staff, as appropriate, are aware of the Save the Date (re-attached) and receive the formal invitation when it arrives.

Hui-ā-motu final report

Following the series of hui in September/October between the Department of Internal Affairs, Taumata Arowai and iwi/Māori, the Department prepared a report summarising feedback from the hui.

To ensure the report accurately reflects what iwi/hapū members told DIA, the draft report has been tested with hui attendees and updated to reflect this further feedback. The final report is now available online here: Hui-ā-Motu Summary Report

Water Services Bill open for submissions

Last year we also notified you that the Water Services Bill is before the Health Select Committee. Submissions are open until 2 March 2021. You can find the Bill on the Parliament website here.

Useful resources

  • Information relating to the Steering Committee’s work and the Three Waters Reform Programme can be found here
  • Information relating to the RfI process can be found here
  • Information covering the earlier work of the Three Waters Review can be found here
  • Information relating to the establishment of Taumata Arowai can be found here

*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