Three Waters Reform Programme


The delivery of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – the three waters services – is changing.

All New Zealanders need safe, reliable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – the three waters services. We depend on these for the health and wellbeing of our communities and our environment.

Why do we need reform?

The evidence shows as a nation we haven’t adequately maintained and improved our water service infrastructure. Without change, the safety, reliability and affordability of these services will lead to more New Zealanders getting sick from contaminated drinking water, more sewage spills and increases in cost.

Three waters reform case for change and summary of proposals - 15 June 2022 (PDF, 1.3MB)

How will our water services be improved?

The Government has worked with local government, iwi and water industry leaders to create a detailed, affordable plan to make sure our three waters system is in good condition to meet challenges like population growth, climate change and natural disasters.

Under this plan four new publicly-owned Water Services Entities will run New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services – currently operated by councils on behalf of communities.

The Government’s plan will build these new Water Services Entities (WSEs) on the foundations of existing council infrastructure, people, and expertise. The plan is designed to give the new water organisations the financial flexibility to make the necessary upgrades more affordable for everyone.

The Water Services Entities Bill

The Government has introduced to Parliament the first piece of legislation to make these changes – the Water Services Entities Bill. As well as setting up the new entities so they can be ready in two years’ time, the Bill locks in council ownership of the WSEs on behalf of the communities, by making councils the sole shareholders. Councils will have one share per 50,000 people in their area, rounded up – so each council will have at least one share.

The legislation ensures communities will have a say in the running of the new water organisations through council and iwi oversight, while giving them the financial and operational independence they need to get on with the job.

Read the Bill (on

The Select Committee

After the Bill’s first reading on 9 June 2022, it was referred to Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee. The Committee considered over 80,000 submissions on this legislation including 227 oral submissions heard during hearings in Wellington and around the country.

On 11 November, the Finance and Expenditure Committee issued its report on the Water Services Entities Bill (New Zealand Parliament website, PDF, 1.7MB).

As a result of submissions, the Departmental Report and other advice (New Zealand Parliament website), the Committee agreed to approximately 130 amendments to the Bill. Given the Bill has 228 clauses (plus schedules), the number of changes to address feedback is substantial and significant.

Auditor General’s response to accountability and independent audit proposals

On 13 November at the request of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Controller and Auditor-General John Ryan wrote to the chair of the committee Barbara Edmonds to provide comment on the Department of Internal Affairs’ proposed changes to the Water Services Entities Bill. The Department proposed these changes in response to matters raised by the Office of the Auditor General in their submission on the Bill. These matters related to the accountability and independent audit arrangements for water services entities set out in the Bill.

The Department’s proposed changes have been accepted by the Finance and Expenditure Committee which has recommended the Bill is amended accordingly.

Letter from the Controller and Auditor-General - 13 October 2022 (PDF, 170KB)

Learn more and keep up with the process by clicking the button (link) below.

New Zealand Parliament website

Listen to Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta talk about why the Government is proceeding with reform.

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