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 – 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 Bill has been referred to a select committee for consideration, which will set a timetable for receiving and responding to public submissions on the Bill.

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.

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 responses to the wider affordability and capability challenges facing the three waters sector. This includes supporting councils to investigate collaborative approaches to water service delivery.

To support such collaborative initiatives, the Government has agreed to provide, on a case-by-case basis, financial assistance to eligible regions that are investigating financially sustainable changes to their water service delivery arrangements (see below).

Earlier progress updates

Three waters service delivery reform – information for council funding applications

Local authorities are well-placed to provide technical insights, and bring together knowledge of local issues, to improve their existing water service delivery arrangements and deliver better services to communities.  

Some regional groupings of local authorities have already begun to explore options and solutions to collaboratively improve their water service delivery arrangements. To support these proposals, the Government has agreed to provide, on a case-by-case basis, financial assistance to eligible regions that are investigating financially sustainable service delivery changes.

If granted, funding will go toward the costs associated with:

  • investigation and development of a preferred service delivery option (including business cases, technical, financial and legal advice); and
  • public consultation required to enable the respective councils to proceed to the adoption and/or implementation of new collaborative service arrangements.

How to apply

Interested regions are invited to send expressions of interest to the Three Waters Review Team (email

Three waters review - key documents

Review in summary (updated 13 March 2019):

Cabinet papers and minutes (updated 19 December 2019):


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

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

LATEST: 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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