Three Waters Review


The Government is reviewing how to improve the regulation and supply arrangements of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (three waters) to better support New Zealand’s prosperity, health, safety and environment. Most three waters assets and services, but not all, are owned and delivered by local councils.

The Three Waters Review is a cross-government initiative led by the Minister of Local Government. Other involved agencies and portfolios include: Health, Environment, Finance, Business Innovation and Employment, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Primary Industries, Climate Change, Infrastructure, Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Housing and Urban Development, Transport, Conservation, and Rural Communities.

The Review, beginning in mid-2017, ran in parallel to the latter stages of the Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water, which was set up following the campylobacter outbreak in 2016. Up to 5500 people were ill as a result and four people are thought to have died from associated causes.

The initial findings of the Review were consistent with many of the Havelock North Inquiry’s findings, and raised broader questions about the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for the three waters, and the capability and sustainability of water service providers.

Effective three waters services are essential for our communities

  • Our health and safety: depends on safe drinking water, safe disposal of wastewater and effective stormwater drainage.
  • Our prosperity: depends on adequate supply of cost effective three waters services for housing, businesses and community services.
  • Our environment: depends on well managed extraction of drinking water, and careful disposal of wastewater and stormwater.

Progress update – February 2020

Three waters service delivery and funding arrangements

With the constructive input of local government and the wider water sector, the Three Waters Review Team has been considering solutions to wider affordability and capability challenges facing the three waters sector.

In January 2020, Cabinet considered advice on improving New Zealand’s three waters service delivery and funding arrangements. The Government confirmed its commitment to partnering with local government to consider options for transitioning councils to new service delivery arrangements, allowing for safer, more affordable and reliable three waters services across the country.

The first step in this partnership is to continue to support councils within regions to investigate opportunities for collaborative approaches to water service delivery.

The Government will monitor the progress of those investigations over 2020, while it investigates further national opportunities to support the sector to address infrastructure challenges, improve the safety and quality of drinking water, and reduce the environmental impacts of wastewater.

Further information is available in the Cabinet papers Three waters service delivery and funding arrangements: approach to reforms and related Cabinet minute.

Taumata Arowai Establishment Unit

Department of Internal Affairs Chief Executive Paul James has announced the appointment of Bill Bayfield as the Establishment Chief Executive for Taumata Arowai, the new water services regulator. A highly respected chief executive with local and central government experience, and a good knowledge of drinking water and environmental regulation, Mr Bayfield comes to Taumata Arowai from his position as Chief Executive of Environment Canterbury. He takes up his new role in May this year and will report to the Taumata Arowai Establishment Board. The role is a fixed term appointment through to December 2021, with the Taumata Arowai Board due to consider a permanent appointment once it is fully established and operating.

Progress update – December 2019

Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator Bill

On 11 December 2019, the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill was introduced to Parliament (an announcement by the Minister of Local Government is available here: The Bill implements decisions to establish a new regulatory body – Taumata Arowai – which will be responsible for:

  • administering and enforcing a new drinking water regulatory system (including the management of risks to sources of drinking water); and
  • a small number of complementary functions relating to improving the environmental performance of wastewater and stormwater networks.

The Bill and its progress can be viewed on the Parliament website here: It:

  • sets out Taumata Arowai’s objectives, general functions, and operating principles;
  • establishes Taumata Arowai as a Crown agent, with a board; and
  • establishes a Māori Advisory Group to support Taumata Arowai by providing advice on Māori interests and knowledge, as they relate to its objectives, functions, and operating principles.

The Cabinet material that sought agreement to the Bill’s introduction can be viewed below: Cabinets and minutes

A separate Bill, the Water Services Bill, will contain all of the details of the new drinking water regulatory system, and provisions relating to source water protection and Taumata Arowai’s wastewater and stormwater functions. This Bill is being developed over a slightly longer timeframe, and is expected to be introduced to Parliament in 2020.

Earlier progress updates

Three waters review - key documents

Review in summary (updated 13 March 2019):

Cabinet papers and minutes (updated February 2020):


Frontier Economics report – Review of experience with aggregation in the water sector – 26 June 2019

GHD-Boffa Miskell report – National stocktake of municipal wastewater treatment plants – December 2019

GHD-Boffa Miskell report – Cost estimates for upgrading wastewater treatment plants that discharge to the ocean – December 2019

GHD-Boffa Miskell report – Addendum – Cost estimates for upgrading wastewater treatment plants – December 2019

Beca report – Additional Analysis on Drinking Water Costs for Compliance – November 2019

Three Waters Regulation: report on targeted stakeholder engagement – June 2019:

Cost estimates for upgrading Wastewater Treatment Plants to meet objective of the NPS Freshwater:

Context statement:

Earlier reports:


Department of Internal Affairs - LGNZ Reference Group: Summary of research and analysis (September 2018) (PDF, 2.1MB)

Presentations, speeches and media releases:

Media releases:

Minister's speeches:


Contact Details

For enquiries, please email

Related information

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