Steering Committee Update - 19 October 2020: forthcoming Request for Information

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Tēnā koutou katoa,

This email is from the joint Central/Local Government Three Waters Steering Committee. It has been sent to Mayors, Chairs, and Chief Executives only, and should be shared with your colleagues as appropriate.

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.

This update provides specific information and guidance on the upcoming Request for Information (RfI).

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:  

Supporting councils to collect three waters information

On Wednesday, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), supported by the Steering Committee, will be sending out a Request for Information (RfI) as part of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Reform Programme.

We have heard a strong and consistent request from across the sector to see more evidence and modelling for reform in the New Zealand context.

The information requested will be essential in meeting that objective and informing a comprehensive and credible analysis.

We understand that this is a particularly busy and challenging time for councils and that we are asking a lot at this time.

However, this is an opportunity for councils to be supported through a critical task – our initial soundings indicate that, while resource intensive, councils will find this exercise valuable and it will assist them in making well informed decisions on reform options later next year.

Some councils may feel better placed than others to provide a detailed level of information and a number have been asked to be part of a representative group for which a greater level of support will be available.

However, all councils will be asked to provide a certain level of information, and given the advantages to councils of the available support, we will be encouraging others to “opt in’’ to the group collecting more detailed data.

The support available is outlined below and will be provided in greater detail with the release of the RfI.

Context and purpose of the RfI

The RfI process was signalled through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that all eligible Territorial Authorities signed with the Crown.

The MoU included a commitment to “openly sharing information and analysis undertaken to date on the state of the system for delivering three waters services and the quality of the asset base”.

The purpose of the RfI is to collect information required to undertake detailed analysis to support advice on the options for reform to the Steering Committee, local government elected members and Ministers over the coming months.

It will also ensure that councils themselves have higher quality information to support their participation in the reform process.

The Steering Committee has reviewed and commented on the RfI process as part of our partnership approach.

The Committee considers the information gathered through this RfI will be an important part of the Reform Programme. It will ensure all parties including local authorities have quality information to enable New Zealand to make informed decisions as the reforms progress.

The information requested under this RfI will also help to develop a more mature understanding of the current state and enable important comparisons when the time comes to analyse options for service delivery reform.

Support that will be available

Given its purpose, the RfI will be comprehensive in nature and will require a substantive resource commitment from Councils.  

In response to requests from the sector, the Steering Committee has worked with SOLGM, LGNZ and DIA to put together support arrangements to help councils respond to the RfI.

This support will include:

  • weekly check in meetings with core staff;
  • easy to use RfI template and associated guidance;
  • sector webinars to answer questions about the process (the first of these is to be hosted by SOLGM); and
  • email-based help-desk support.

In addition to this central support, some Councils have indicated in their delivery plans that they may choose to apply stimulus funding to support their engagement with this work. DIA is working on a default addendum to delivery plans to enable other councils to apply their stimulus funding to this mahi.

Immediate next steps

Councils are advised to consider resourcing requirements for this RfI and plan for it accordingly.

More information will be provided when the RfI is issued to clarify the information requirements, how it will inform the reform programme,  the process for Councils to follow and the support that will be made available to enable them to respond.

Ngā mihi,

Three Waters Steering Committee