Central/Local Government Three Waters Reform Programme

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See also: Three Waters Review
Taumata Arowai
Request for Information

About the reform programme
Engagement Materials (25 March 2021)
Other useful information (updated 4 March 2021)
Key documents
Contact us

About the reform programme

In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements.

This reform programme builds on the progress made through the Three Waters Review and establishment of Taumata Arowai.

Currently 67 different councils own and operate the majority of the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services across New Zealand. Local government is facing urgent challenges in the provision of these services including: funding infrastructure deficits, complying with safety standards and environmental expectations, building resilience to natural hazards and climate change into three waters networks, and supporting growth.

Rather than piecemeal solutions, comprehensive, system-wide reform is needed to achieve lasting benefits for the local government sector, our communities, and the environment.

The Government’s starting intention is to reform local government’s three waters services into a small number of multi-regional entities with a bottom line of public ownership. The exact size, shape and design of these entities is still being worked through.

The reform programme is being progressed through a voluntary, partnership-based approach with the local government sector, alongside iwi/Māori as the Crown’s Treaty Partner. A Joint Three Waters Steering Committee provides collaborative oversight of the reform programme that brings together central and local government expertise and experience.

Iwi/Māori interests

Building on the Crown’s engagement with iwi/Māori through the Three Waters review, the Department is committed to working in partnership with our Treaty Partners as we progress the reforms. Our work requires ongoing engagement with iwi/Māori to understand Treaty rights of interests over the course of the reform period.

The Department has produced a report from the August/September 2020 hui-ā-motu on the reform programme that provides an initial steer to the Department’s approach to the reforms.

See the Hui-ā-Motu Summary Report here (PDF, 835KB).

See the Archived Documents section for more materials produced as part of this engagement.

Engagement on the reform programme

In addition to working with the Steering Committee, there will be an ongoing programme of engagement with local government, iwi/Māori, the wider water services sector, and communities of interest throughout the reform programme.

Building on the engagement undertaken in 2020, the Department and the Joint Steering Committee will be undertaking a series of engagements in March 2021. These engagements will inform advice to Cabinet in on detailed decisions for the reform programme in mid-2021. 

Following Cabinet decisions, there will be further and ongoing engagement through the rest of 2021 as councils and their communities make decisions on remaining in or opting out of the reform programme.

Engagement materials

March 2021 workshops

The March 2021 workshops are part of an ongoing discussion with local government and iwi/hapū and presented the evolving and most up-to-date options and analysis for the Government’s proposal to reform three waters services into a small number of publicly-owned, multi-regional entities. The workshop engagement slides, workshop full report, and workshop engagement slide pack summary listed below are materials developed to support the March 2021 engagements and workshops.


Frequently asked questions (PDF, 730KB)

Pre-workshop webinars

These webinars provide background on the reform programme, an overview of key reform questions, and emerging policy thinking that will be worked through in greater detail at future workshops.

*PLEASE NOTE: Some closed caption (CC) subtitles for these videos may be inaccurate.

December 2020 update

The Department has proactively released two key document sets discussed below.

December 2020 Cabinet Paper and minute – Progressing the three waters service delivery reforms

This Cabinet paper, and associated minute, reconfirms this Government’s commitment to progressing the reforms in this term of Government. This paper sought Cabinet’s direction on:

  • the reform strategy and timetable;
  • the voluntary approach to reform and legislation to facilitate a voluntary approach;
  • work with iwi/Māori – as our Treaty partners – throughout the reform programme
  • the process for identifying the numbers and boundaries of new water services entities;
  • the entity design scenarios that would be tested with credit rating agencies.

December 2020 Cabinet Paper and minute – Progressing the three waters service delivery reforms (PDF, 2MB)

See also:

Economic analysis of water services aggregation - briefing and report

This briefing provides a summary of the stage one report from the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS).

The Stage One report provides preliminary analysis on the likely scale of investment required to meet drinking water quality and environmental standards, and the potential implications for household bills under various aggregation scenarios. The Stage One report has been produced using publicly accessible council information.

A second stage analysis will be produced in the first half of 2021 using detailed information provided through the reform programme’s Request for Information process.

Economic analysis of water services aggregation - Briefing to the Minister (PDF, 6MB)

See also:

Other useful information

Economic regulation

  • The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have provided a background information pack on what economic regulation is and how it might apply in a future three waters system.

Taumata Arowai and drinking water regulation

  • 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 currently before the Health Select Committee for consideration. We have provided the below overview of the Bill, as introduced to the House, to help you understand the Bill.

Key Documents

Cabinet Papers and Minutes


Presentations, speeches and media releases

Steering Committee updates

Other documents

Click through to see further archived information from 2020 including:

  • An overview of the Joint Steering Committee and update emails
  • Information on the post-COVID stimulus funding package
  • Documents prepared for 2020 local government sector and iwi/hapū/Māori engagements.

Contact us

If you have any queries, please email: 3waterssteeringgroup@dia.govt.nz or ThreeWaters@dia.govt.nz

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