Central/Local Government Three Waters Reform Programme

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See also: Three Waters Review
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About the reform programme
Iwi/Māori interests 
Reform Programme Engagement
Latest Information (updated 2 June 2021)

Other useful information (Updated 2 June 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 (PDF, 835KB).

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

Reform Programme Engagement 

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 presented 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.

For more information and materials about the reform programme’s engagement, see the March 2021 workshops and February 2021 Pre-workshop webinars sections below.

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Latest Information

June 2021 update

The Department, in partnership with the Steering Committee, is releasing analysis and modelling to advance the evidence base informing the case for change for the Three Waters Reform Programme.

The four reports that have been released further demonstrate the need for reform and its potential benefits, and address some of the important questions raised by local government members through recent engagements.

The reports include analysis of the economic benefits of reform by the Water Industry Commission of Scotland (WICS), independent reviews of WICS’ methodology by Farrierswier and Beca, and an analysis of the effects of the proposed reform on the economy and affected industries by Deloitte.

The reports highlight the huge investment required over the next 30 years to ensure that New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water and our wastewater and stormwater networks achieve good environmental outcomes.

The reports point to the opportunities that reform will provide in reducing the costs of water services compared to the status quo. They also indicate the substantial economic benefits the reforms would deliver.

Media release – Minster of Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Briefing document summarising important findings

The high-level findings from these reports are summarised in this briefing, including important findings from a suite of reports that comprise the second stage of the evidence base to support the Three Waters Reform Programme.

WICS Final Report

The WICS phase 2 report builds on the first phase of work by using more detailed and up-to-date information collected from councils to investigate:

  • estimated potential investment requirements for New Zealand to comply with relevant standards, and infrastructure to provide for growth
  • scope for efficiency gains from transformation of the three waters service delivery system, including those associated with scale; and
  • the potential economic (efficiency) impacts of various aggregation scenarios

Farrierswier report

Farrierswier reviewed the methodology and underpinning assumptions applied by WICS and the extent to which this is reasonable to inform policy advice.

Beca report

Beca reviewed the standards and practices in the United Kingdom three waters industry and the relevance to New Zealand given WICS has used United Kingdom data and benchmarks as part of its analysis.

Deloitte report

Deloitte has undertaken a comprehensive study of the economic impacts of reform and the potential opportunities and challenges for affected industries.

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.

February 2021 - 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 below.

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

See also:

Economic analysis of water services aggregation - briefing and report

See also:

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Other useful information

Economic regulation

Three Waters Reform Programme – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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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