Three Waters Reform
The Government has announced it proposes to transfer management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater from 67 independent councils to four large publicly owned entities. Each entity would be governed by an independent board; at this stage, participation remains voluntary.
The announcement means Western Bay of Plenty District Council could be part of a central North Island entity involving 22 councils in the greater Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and parts of Manawatū-Whanganui. Boundaries will be confirmed in September 2021, following further discussion with councils and iwi. The change would not come into place until 2024 and councils will continue to manage three waters until then.
As part of the reform Council would receive $21.3 million out of the $2.5 billion Three Waters Reform package.
Right now we’re in an eight-week review period which ends on 1 October 2021. In this review period we are evaluating the latest information from Government and providing feedback on the draft proposals so far.
This includes undertaking an analysis of Council data to assess the impacts of Three Waters Reform under a status quo scenario vs the reform scenario. This covers several areas including service levels, finance and funding, workforce and capability, and social, community and economic wellbeing.
At this stage we don’t have a final proposal or details on any decision Council will be asked to make. We are not being asked to decide to opt in or out of the reform, but to review and provide feedback on the Government’s draft proposal.
We are building a feedback document ahead of our Council meeting on 23 September. This feedback document will then be submitted to Government ahead of the 1 October deadline.
We anticipate further announcements from Government later this year. At that point Council can decide what steps it needs to take, any further information it needs, and any decisions which may need to be made.
Frequently asked questions
The Three Waters Reform programme sets out to improve the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. It will improve the safety, quality, and environmental performance of water, wastewater and storm water services in a way that is considerably more affordable per household than what is projected without reform.
This reform will bring together three waters services, currently delivered by 67 different councils across New Zealand, into four competency-based water services entities. These entities will remain firmly in public ownership (by the communities they serve).
The reform will improve our ability to address contamination of urban streams, lakes and coastal environments through sewer overflows and other unauthorised discharges and storm water run-off.
Reform will also improve transparency about, and accountability for, the delivery and costs of these services and uphold the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations to iwi/Māori.
Because councils are facing challenges in the provision of quality water services to meet the growing demands of their communities.
- funding the necessary infrastructure, such as water and wastewater treatment plants, pipes, etc
- complying with safety standards and environmental expectations
- building resilience to natural hazards and climate change into three waters networks
- supporting growth – more people, means more demands on infrastructure.
The effective delivery of waters services is essential for our communities and includes:
- safe drinking water, safe disposal of wastewater and effective stormwater drainage
- adequate supply of cost-effective waters services for housing, businesses and community services
- well-managed extraction of drinking water, and careful disposal of treated wastewater and stormwater so that our environment is protected.
Evidence shows that significant national investment is needed to continue to offer effective water service delivery. If the model stays as it is (council-ownership and management), service quality will be variable, and services will become unaffordable for many New Zealanders. Reform will enable communities across New Zealand to benefit from scale and operational efficiencies, making it more cost-effective in the long-run.
The reform would mean a significant change for council, and for the way drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services are delivered to our community in the future.
Under the Government’s draft proposal Western Bay of Plenty District Council could be part of a central North Island entity involving 22 councils in the greater Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and parts of Manawatū-Whanganui. Boundaries will be confirmed in September 2021, following further discussion with councils and iwi.
If the reform goes ahead, any change would only come into place in 2024, so we would continue to manage water services until then.
Council has done a good job investing in water infrastructure and in turn providing a good service to our residents.
Our infrastructure is in a good state and this reflects the major investments we have made in the past. Our assets are modern and well maintained and we are committed to ensuring this continues now and into the future.
However, expert research and international experience shows a different national structure will allow us to do even better. Like most areas in New Zealand, we also need to invest a lot more, and meet new compliance and environmental levels in the future. The reform programme is designed to significantly reduce future costs to ratepayers.
The reform programme is led by Government, not by councils. Councils are still receiving information on the reform proposals and have not yet been asked to make any final decision.
Before we can effectively consult with our communities, we need to understand the final proposal and what decision Councils are being asked to make. Between August and the end of September 2021 councils are clarifying the Government's proposals, analysing the information provided and providing feedback through Local Government New Zealand. After October 1 we expect further information from Government and a clearer picture for how best to best to engage with our communities.
A final decision has not been made by the Government, so a referendum is not applicable right now.
Currently, we’re in the process of providing feedback to the Government – we have until the end of September to do that. We’re participating in the reform process, but we have yet to make any decisions about Western Bay’s future involvement.
Department of Internal Affairs
- The latest Government information and releases is uploaded to the Department of Internal Affairs website here.