Taumata Arowai Establishment Unit

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See also: Three Waters Reform Programme
Three Waters Review


In September 2019, Cabinet agreed to create a new Water Services Regulator to administer and enforce the new drinking water regulatory system, while contributing to improved environmental outcomes from wastewater and stormwater networks.

The new regulator will be known as Taumata Arowai.

Beginning in November 2019, the Taumata Arowai Establishment Unit has been created within the Department of Internal Affairs to establish this entity.

Taumata Arowai’s name conveys the weight, responsibility and authority of the regulator. Taumata is a term associated with a summit, symposium or congress. Taumata invokes a sense of protection and wisdom.  Arowai is a compound word composed of ‘aro’ and ‘wai’. Aro means to give attention to, to focus on, or be in the presence of. Wai is water.

The Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Act passed in July 2020, establishes Taumata Arowai as a Crown Agent and provides for its objectives, functions, operating principles, and governance arrangements, including the appointment of an independent Board and a Māori Advisory Group.

A complementary Bill, the Water Services Bill, is now before Parliament.  This Bill is anticipated to be introduced in the second half of 2021, dependent on the election outcome and the post-election Parliamentary timetable.

At that time, Taumata Arowai will become Aotearoa's dedicated regulator of the three waters: Drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. 

Until then, the Ministry of Health remains the regulator of drinking water.

When Taumata Arowai is fully functionally, in essence its role will be to:

  • Oversee and administer an expanded and strengthened drinking-water regulatory system, to ensure all New Zealand communities have access to safe drinking water.  That includes holding suppliers to account, if need be.
  • Oversee from a national perspective the environmental performance of waste water and storm water networks. (Regional councils will remain the primary regulators of waste water and storm water).

Three Waters Reforms

The establishment of Taumata Arowai is one three po (pillars) of the Government’s Three Waters Reform programme, alongside the regulatory reforms outlined in the Water Services Bill, and the reforms to water delivery services

These reforms are intended to address issues and opportunities that were highlighted by the Government Inquiry into the Havelock North Drinking Water, and in the Government’s Three Waters Review.

The reforms are designed to:

  • Provide clear leadership for drinking water regulation through a new, dedicated regulator;
  • Significantly strengthen compliance, monitoring, and enforcement relating to drinking water regulation, and equip the new regulator with the powers and resources needed to build capability, support suppliers of all kinds to meet their regulatory obligations, and take a tougher, more consistent approach to enforcement where needed;
  • Manage risks to drinking water safety and ensure source waters are protected;
  • Ensure more people can access water that is safe to drink, by requiring all suppliers (except individual domestic self-suppliers) to be part of the regulatory system, and to provide safe drinking water on a consistent basis;
  • Lift the environmental performance and transparency of wastewater and stormwater networks; and
  • Improve national-level leadership, oversight, and support relating to wastewater and stormwater.  

Water Services Bill

While the Taumata Arowai Act was passed in July 2020, Taumata Arowai will not become fully operational until enactment of the Water Services Bill, projected to in the second half of 2021.

Until Taumata Arowai is fully operational, the Ministry of Health will remain the regulator for drinking water safety.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the introduction of the Water Services Bill on 27 July 2020 (Beehive website).

The Bill contains all of the details of the new drinking water regulatory system, and provisions relating to source water protection and Taumata Arowai’s wastewater and stormwater functions.

To view the Bill, and sign up to receive electronic updates on its progress through the legislative process, go to: Water Services Bill (Parliament website). 

Related Cabinet papers are available here: Cabinet papers (Updated September 2020)

Timelines and milestones

Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Act

  • December 2019: Introduced to the House
  • December 2019 – June 2020:  Select Committee consideration
  • Hearings occurred during March 2020
  • Mid-June 2020: Reported back to the House
  • Passed July 2020
  • Expected to take effect through an Order in Council in early 2021? (TBC)

Water Services Bill

  • Introduced into the House in July 2020
  • Future stages are dependent upon the election outcome and Parliamentary decisions.
  • Expected be passed in the second half of 2021? (TBC)

Chief Executive

Bill Bayfield is the Establishment Chief Executive for Taumata Arowai.

His vast experience in both central and local government includes most recently eight years as Chief Executive of Environment Canterbury. He has an in-depth knowledge of drinking water and environmental regulation.

His appointment in May 2020 is on a fixed-term basis to December 2021. He will lead the establishment of Taumata Arowai and its first six months of ‘going live’ in 2021 as the new drinking water regulator.

Once it is established in the first part The Taumata Arowai board will consider a permanent appointment for 2022 and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions 

(Updated September 2020)

Taumata Arowai - key documents

Cabinet papers and minutes

Iwi/Māori Engagement (September 2020)


Beca report - Cost Estimates for Upgrading Water Treatment Plants – March 2018 (PDF, 6MB)

News and Media

The Water Services Regulator Bill – Taumata Arowai a milestone for drinking water safety (12/12/2019)

Independent regulator to make drinking water safe (25/10/2019)

Dedicated watchdog for water quality (1/8/2019)

Wellbeing and water - a necessary conversation with Local Government (20/11/2018)

Counting the costs of safe, clean water (24/10/2018)


Contact us at: Taumata.Arowai@dia.govt.nz

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