Three Waters Steering Committee Update, 11 September 2020

Return toThree Waters Reform Programme

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.

As the reform programme moves into a new phase, the Committee is reducing its frequency of meetings to the first Monday of each month.

Progress updates will be provided following these meetings, at fortnightly intervals in between, or when there is pressing information to convey to the sector.

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: Three Waters Reform Programme  

Steering Committee progress and make-up

Since its formation in June the Three Waters Steering Committee has made significant progress.

The Committee initially met weekly and signed off on a number of essential documents, processes and pieces of advice, available on the three Waters Reform Webpage, including:

  • The Committee’s Terms of Reference;
  • A model Memorandum of Understanding, and a templated Funding Agreement and Delivery Plan;
  • A Model Report for councils;
  • Legal advice on requirements for consultation over signing up to the MoU;
  • Several webinars on the scope of the reform programme and the Steering Committee’s role;
  • Oversight of the programme’s workstreams;

The staging of 14 workshops across the country following the Government’s announcement of the $761 million recovery and reform fund was a major undertaking.

The purpose of these workshops was to outline and get feedback on the reform programme and to assist Councils to understand the MoU and requirements to receive a share of the Three Waters investment stimulus package.

They were attended by more than 1000 local government sector elected members, Māori partners and staff. All 67 eligible councils signed the MoU ahead of the 31 August deadline.

The focus of the Committee now shifts to a new phase of work and will be supported in this by expert/technical reference groups (see below).

The shift in focus, along with the forward commitments of one or two members of the Steering Committee, has meant some minor additions to its make-up: Christchurch City Council Chief Executive Dawn Baxendale and Sarah Gardner CEO at Otago Regional Council join; while Hamish Grant-Fargie of MBIE will join the Committee due to MBIE’s role in leading work on economic regulation.

Technical reference groups

With the reform programme entering into an intensive period and technical, legal and commercial policy and design work, reference groups are being assembled with SOLGM and LGNZ assistance to support the work of the Steering Committee. There are to be three groups including:

System Design Group: this is a senior reference group the role of which is to test issues around overall system and institutional design, entity purpose, ownership, governance, accountability, funding models, etc. It will have a membership drawn from chief executives, chief financial officers, chief legal officers, and tier 2 infrastructure managers.

Water Infrastructure Technical Group: this is a technical advisory group comprising water infrastructure experts to test more technical issues related to the reform programme. Membership includes asset managers, water engineers, and other experts with knowledge of three waters assets and finances. It will have a mix of experts from the water sector, service providers and Councils.

Community and consumer interests: a sub-group comprising elected members and chief executives drawn from the Steering Committee will be formed to explore the implications, impacts and questions arising from potential reform options as they relate to community interests, input and influence.

Once finalised, the Terms of Reference and membership of the groups will be posted to the Three Waters Reform webpage.

LTP process

The Committee is acutely aware of questions relating to preparation of 2021 LTPs and potential complexities in relation to the reform programme.

Guidance has been prepared by SOLGM, is now available on their website, and is being distributed from Monday 17 September.

Hawkes Bay Three Waters Review Report

Since early 2019, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, Hastings District Council, Napier City Council, Wairoa District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have been working together to review the current and potential service delivery options for drinking, waste and stormwater (three waters) for all of Hawke’s Bay.

The project aligns with the five councils’ strategic priority for the 2019-22 triennium; water safety, security and planning. The work has been aimed at an understanding and assessment of the issues and options for the future of three waters service delivery across the Hawke’s Bay region.

The independent Review is now complete and has been formally delivered to councils, and made public.

For information on the review visit: the Hawke's Bay 3 Waters page

Iwi/Maori engagement

In recognition of their key relationships with mana whenua, many councils have asked for further information about the reform programme’s engagement with iwi/Māori.

Prior to and during the July/August workshops the Department of Internal Affairs and Taumata Arowai, the new water services regulator, said the Crown would return for targeted hui with hapū/iwi/Māori.

These hui are designed to gain a more comprehensive understanding of iwi/Māori Treaty interests and perspectives on the Three Waters Reform Programme as well as the regulatory work of Taumata Arowai.

They are scheduled to take place over three weeks beginning on Monday 21 September and be complemented by webinar sessions. A COVID-19 contingency is also being developed should this be required in lieu of kanohi ki te kanohi hui.

This mahi is essential to, and will inform, the Steering Committee’s ongoing work and members have been invited to attend as they are available or able.

While the primary participants of this Crown/Māori engagement will be hapū/iwi to whom invitations have been distributed, it is anticipated that hāpu/iwi may wish to invite council partners with whom they have particular relationships.

Iwi/Māori groups have been contacted separately, and Te Maruata and Te Pae Urungi representatives are being informed of the hui schedules.

Data and information requests

As indicated in the MoU and workshops, the Steering Committee is supporting DIA with the development of a Requests for Information (RfI) that covers economic, financial, commercial and other information required to support further analysis as part of the reform programme.

The design of the RfI process will include consideration of communications and engagement to provide transparency around the information being requested and how this will be used.

Administration of the data request will be led by SOLGM with practical support and assistance from EY/Beca.

We are mindful of the potential additional workload this may place on some councils at a very busy time and will be considering how best we can provide support to lessen the impact on councils.

The Committee notes Water New Zealand’s National Performance Review, a survey undertaken across the sector since 2008. This review collates social, environmental and financial performance metrics of New Zealand’s reticulated water services.

Water New Zealand has written to each Council inviting them to take part in the survey. Registrations are due by 11 September and any enquiries should be directed to

Funding Agreements and Delivery Plans

A gentle reminder that these are due with (copied to by 30 September 2020. Further information can be found in the Grant Funding Guidance document on the Three Waters Reform Programme webpage 

Nāku noa, nā

Three Waters Steering Committee