Three Waters Review

Background

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 – July 2020

Announcement of three waters infrastructure stimulus package

On 8 July 2020, the Government announced a funding package of $761 million to provide immediate post-COVID-19 stimulus to local authorities to maintain and improve three waters infrastructure, support reform of local government water services delivery arrangements, and support the operation of Taumata Arowai. Information about this work, including updates, media releases and background documents, is available on the Central/Local Government Three Waters Reform Programme webpage.

Three waters regulatory reform

On 27 July 2020, the Water Services Bill was introduced to Parliament (an announcement by the Minister of Local Government is available here: New water services bill for safe drinking water 28 July 2020). The Bill contains 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.

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

The Cabinet material that sought agreement to the Bill’s introduction can be viewed below: Cabinet papers and minutes (updated July 2020)

A second, complementary Bill, the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Bill, sets out Taumata Arowai’s objectives, general functions, and operating principles, and establishes Taumata Arowai as a Crown agent.

Earlier progress updates

Three waters review - key documents

Review in summary (updated 13 March 2019):

Cabinet papers and minutes (updated July 2020):

Reports:

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:

Other:

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:

Articles

Contact Details

For enquiries, please email ThreeWaters@dia.govt.nz

Related information

Return to Local Government Policy