Mandatory three waters reform for councils


Three waters reforms will be mandatory for councils creating a new four-entity structure to manage water services across New Zealand, the government has announced.

Despite councils being offered to opt-in or opt-out, the reform will see the management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater transferred from 67 councils to four public-owned entities.   

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed a transition to new structures by July 2024 and the establishment of a working group with councils to reach agreement on governance structures and ensure local views are represented.

The announcement comes after an intensive eight-week period for local government to provide feedback on the government’s reform proposals.

Hamilton City Council Mayor Paula Southgate says Hamilton’s feedback to government earlier this month was that it did not support the proposals as they stand.

“This is the government’s reform, not ours, but we need big changes before this plan is acceptable to us.

“Any reform needs to be done in a way that works for our city and our ratepayers and I’ll be fighting to make that happen.

“Our council has raised strong concerns about consultation, ownership of assets and the retention of a local voice.

“Council has demanded ironclad protections against privatisation. These issues need to be addressed,” Southgate says.

Waipā District’s Mayor Jim Mylchreest says the announcement puts paid to a public consultation period promised by the government.

“Waipā District Council still don’t support the reforms in its current format, and we wanted time to consult with our community, in a public forum, which we were not able to do. We also had questions we wanted answers to. It is very disappointing to say the least.

“Now we need to look ahead to what we can do. How can we make this work best for Waipā – even though we are not happy about it,” Mylchreest says.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council Mayor Garry Webber says the decision to make participation compulsory is a disappointing blow given council bought into this reform process
because it was optional.   

“We like many councils in New Zealand are concerned about the governance arrangements, in particular the ability of local councils such as ourselves to get our voices heard,” Webber says.  

“Based on past experiences there is no guarantee that the best laid plans will be funded centrally when there are bigger councils with bigger problems that need resolution. 

“Given it is a government-led reform we as a council will be discussing very quickly our approach to getting the views of our community in a format where we can present them wherever necessary to government.” 

The Waikato and the Bay of Plenty will be part of a central North Island entity including
councils in Taranaki, and parts of Manawatu-Whanganui.

The Department of Internal Affairs have indicated in their timeline that the three pieces of legislation to implement their decision will have select committee processes and public submissions and hearings.

This will be another avenue council can use to express the community’s views and advocate for their interests. 


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