About the Three Waters Reform Programme

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Minister of Local Government and why Reform is needed
Background about the Reform Programme

Minister of Local Government and why Reform is needed

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

Listen to the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta talk about the Government’s view on why reform is needed.

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Find out more about the Three Waters Reform Programme by reading one-page fact sheets:

Or visit the three waters reform programme frequently asked questions page.

Background about the Reform Programme

Safe, affordable and reliable drinking water, and wastewater and stormwater networks that meet environmental and cultural expectations are the foundation of advanced societies. It is also essential for the protection of public health and the health of the environment.

In mid-2017, following the Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water, the Government established the Three Waters Review to look at how to improve the regulation and service delivery arrangements of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – the three waters – to better support New Zealand’s environment, health, and safety. The findings of the Review were consistent with many of the Havelock North Inquiry’s findings and raised system-wide questions about the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for the three waters, and the capability and sustainability of water service providers.

The Government, in July 2020, then announced the Three Waters Reform Programme in response to mounting evidence of the challenges facing three waters service delivery nationally. These include ageing infrastructure, historical under-investment, a bow-wave of wastewater plants to be reconsented, source water contamination, higher consumer expectations, required resilience for impacts of climate change and natural hazards, evolving demographics and huge looming costs.

A series of reports augmented by economic modelling puts the cost of a fit-for-purpose, future-proofed three waters service at somewhere between $120 billion and $185 billion nationally, over and above already planned investment, in the next 30 years. Most three waters assets and services, but not all, are owned and delivered by local councils. The Government’s view is that current arrangements will not be able to address these intergenerational challenges and that transformational reform is required.

Informed by this evidence, the Government took decisions in October 2021 to progress the reforms so that all New Zealand communities can benefit from the reforms.

The Three Waters Review’s mahi also led to the recent establishment of Taumata Arowai, the new water regulator for Aotearoa and a strengthened regulatory environment for three waters services. Taumata Arowai has a strong focus on the safety of New Zealand’s drinking water and on 15 November 2021 became the drinking water regulator. In 2024, it will assume responsibility for wastewater and stormwater networks, becoming the three waters regulator for Aotearoa.

Programme outcomes

The Three Waters Reform Programme has four key outcomes:

  • safe, reliable drinking water
  • better environmental performance of wastewater and stormwater services
  • efficient, sustainable, resilient and accountable multi-regional water and sewage services
  • making it affordable for future generations

Our three pou (pillars)

The Three Waters Reform Programme has three key pou, or pillars:

  • Drinking water

    Find out more about the
    four-year journey the Government has taken to ensure all New Zealanders receive safe, affordable and reliable drinking water services.

  • Wastewater

    Read reports from the Three Waters Review about the future costs of wastewater networks that meet minimum environmental standards.

  • Stormwater

    Find out more about the Stormwater Technical Working Group, established in March 2021, and their Transition Plan Report.

  • Frequently Asked

    Frequently asked questions about Three Waters Reform Programme.

  • What this means for your community

    Learn more about what reform means and how it will benefit your community by viewing the Local Dashboard.

    (Power BI document)

  • Reform Programme Engagement

    In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements.


Contact us

If you have any queries, please email: ThreeWaters@dia.govt.nz