This morning, Minister Mahuta announced that the three waters reform programme will proceed with an ‘all in’ legislated approach in order to provide certainty for all communities on the pathway forward.

This approach supports the view that the case for change is compelling and that to pause the reforms now would result in at least a decade’s delay in addressing the shortfalls in and constraints on water infrastructure investment. As pointed out in our IPWEA NZ joint letter to the Minister (available here), these shortfalls have been well understood and identified for at least 20 years without rectifying action.

Also announced today is the establishment of three working groups to address particular areas of consultation feedback:

  • Representation governance and accountability – likely involving Mayoral and Iwi representatives to consider the proposed arrangements within bottom line outcomes of:
    • Professional Boards
    • Public ownership
    • Balance sheet separation from councils
    • Joint strategic oversight role for mana whenua with councils
  • Technical planning – focused on the interactions of water entities with resource management activity of councils, with technical specialists contributing
  • Rural community supplies – to address how the many small rural community schemes are best engaged with the water entities, likely involving technical specialists in a form similar to the earlier stormwater working group

The Terms of Reference for each working group remains to be developed. We have already suggested to DIA that the technical planning working group should include RCA representatives alongside resource management specialists given the many cross overs with water and especially stormwater.

Extracts from today’s press release:

“The case for change is too compelling to ignore. It is clear that without the establishment of these publicly-owned entities we will continue to see a frail network and contaminated water in many communities. To delay will only push the problem on, increase future household costs and put livelihoods at risk,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

“I also want to signal to those people currently working in water services across councils that this is a critical step change to improve the status quo and we need all workers to be assured that their interests are very important to maintain continuity and continue to grow these skills in our communities,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

Cabinet has also tasked the Department of Internal Affairs with establishing a unit to focus on the successful implementation of these reforms. This unit will work with the local government sector, iwi, water industry and other stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements.

IPWEA NZ is already well connected with the Department of Internal Affairs establishment unit and will continue to represent the importance of competency and capability development in, and deployment of, asset management best practices and as a key contributor to the successful future of three waters in Aotearoa.