Three Waters Reform Steering Committee Update, 2 December 2020

Return to: Three Waters Reform Programme - updates from the Steering Committee

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 on to your colleagues and elected members as appropriate.

Final Steering Committee meeting of 2020

On Monday 30 November, the Steering Committee met for the final time of 2020. However, we will continue to provide regular updates around the summer period.

The Minister of Local Government attended this Steering Committee meeting, and acknowledged the hard work the sector has put into progressing discussions about the reforms, producing your stimulus Delivery Plans, and embarking on the RfI process.

Across the country we have matured a conversation about our three waters services and how we deliver these to our communities. Your leadership in this space has been crucial and the Steering Committee looks forward to furthering this understanding in the New Year. 

Please find below a letter from Brian Hanna, Independent Chair of the Steering Committee, providing his reflections on the past six months and year ahead. Brian has asked that Mayors and Chairs share this with elected members, and Chief Executives with staff as appropriate.

The Committee is expected to meet again twice in February 2021 ahead of our engagement with local government and iwi/Māori (discussed further below).

Next formal engagement on the reform programme

The Department of Internal Affairs, in partnership with the Steering Committee, will be undertaking another series of engagement on the reform programme in March 2021.

The Steering Committee discussed elements of this engagement at our meeting on 30 November and would like to give you some early indications of what this engagement will entail for your information.

The purpose of this engagement phase is to test a range of potential options for the proposed new water-service delivery arrangements with the local government sector, and the Crown’s Treaty partners, and to receive feedback on these options. This input would then be reflected in advice to Ministers ahead of key decisions on proposals in mid-2021.

Priority areas to be tested across this series of engagement include:

  • Number of entities and likely boundaries
  • Consumer and community voice
  • Local Government influence and control
  • Iwi/Māori interests
  • Entity design
  • Economic regulation
  • Approach to transition
  • Process from here.

The engagements will comprise a suite of integrated supporting activities through February and March and a focused set of face-to-face hui/workshops in March. Over the coming month the Steering Committee will be working with the Department to ensure we are able to provide attendees with more detailed thinking, information and channels for the sector, and iwi/Māori, across a wider range of the more technical matters ahead of the in-person workshops.

If possible, we will be wanting to set down and communicate associated dates for the workshops ahead of the Christmas break and will work to ensure these engagements take account of key sector events during March.

Communicating your stimulus funding projects

With Delivery Plans finalised and infrastructure works starting to get underway, and we appreciate there may be some public interest in how you are spending your stimulus funding.

A number of councils have already shared planned media releases on the stimulus projects with the Department of Internal Affairs (

The Steering Committee commends this transparent approach and encourages councils to consider how you may communicate your three waters investment projects with your communities.

As at 2 December 2020, all 67 Delivery Plans for councils’ use of Three Waters funding allocations have been reviewed. A total of 61 councils had received their funding allocation (50% of their total allocation), totalling $249.942 million.

The team is working with remaining councils to ensure the final paperwork is completed so that they can receive the initial funding instalment. All  councils are expected to have received this initial tranche by the end of next week.

Crown Infrastructure Partners are currently finalising the quarterly reporting template, which will be communicated before Christmas. It is anticipated that this will be a digital portal and your Crown Infrastructure Partner reviewers will be on hand to assist you with this and the development of reporting milestones.

We also appreciate that the timing of the first quarterly report may be challenging, particularly given the proximity to the holiday period. The Department and CIP have extended the due date of the first quarterly report to 1 February 2020. However, you are welcome to submit your report and updated delivery milestones prior to this date.

Meeting the Request for Information deadline

We recognise the RFI is a large task and have worked with the sector to provide councils with the latest possible due date to complete this without significantly affecting the wider reform programme. The is due on 1 February 2021 –this is a fixed deadline.

We have a wide range of support mechanisms in place to help councils respond to the RfI. If your councils may be at risk of running up against the deadline please raise this with your SOLGM Account manager, WICS contact, or through this email address as soon as possible so that we may help you complete this important task.

Some councils have already submitted draft pages of their workbooks to the team and this is encouraged. Submitting draft pages of the workbooks enables an early sense-check from the DIA/WICS team.

Looking forward

DIA officials will be supporting the Minister of Local Government to take a paper to Cabinet on the Three Waters Reform Programme ahead of Christmas.

This paper will seek Cabinet direction on the key milestones and timetable for reform, including a further significant round of sector and iwi/Māori engagement around March 2021.

The Committee hopes to be able to communicate key dates for the next set of formal engagements ahead of the Christmas break.

Steering Committee and Reform Programme priorities for the next three months include:

  • 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.

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