Affordable Waters Reform
What is this about?
The Three Waters Reform was launched by the Central Government to change the way that drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) are managed and delivered to the community.
In the Far North, these three services are currently delivered by Far North District Council and are funded through targeted rates paid by those who benefit from these services.
Originally, Central Government proposed that there would be four new entities created to operate three waters across Aotearoa New Zealand. The Far North was included in the Entity A, which covers councils in Northland and Auckland.
In April 2023, the Government announced that the four entities would become 10 entities, with their boundaries established roughly along the lines of New Zealand’s regional councils. Entity A is the only entity that remains unchanged. The expanded number of entities will allow local councils more direct engagement with the water entities that will manage water services on their behalf. The reform programme was renamed the ‘Affordable Waters Reform’.
What is the Government proposing?
Why are reforms needed?
The reform programme is a response to systemic infrastructure problems that have made newspaper headlines in recent years. These include a gastroenteritis outbreak linked to contaminated drinking water at Havelock North in 2016, a spate of burst water pipes in Wellington and sewage spills in areas up and down the country. These incidents have raised questions about the safety and security of New Zealand’s aging three waters infrastructure.
Local government is facing urgent challenges in the provision of three waters services. These challenges include funding infrastructure deficits, complying with improved safety standards and environmental expectations, building resilience to natural hazards and climate change into three waters networks, and supporting growth. Rather than piecemeal solutions, comprehensive, system-wide reform is needed to achieve lasting benefits for the local government sector, our communities, and the environment.
The reform programme aims to provide a more efficient and consistent way of delivering three waters services across the country. The Government believes that greater efficiencies and capabilities can be achieved if these services are provided at a larger scale. The reforms also include new legislation and the establishment of a new organisation called Taumata Arowai, which has replaced the Ministry of Health as New Zealand’s drinking water regulator. Taumata Arowai is responsible for ensuring all communities have access to safe drinking water. It also has an oversight role in protecting the environment from the impacts of wastewater and stormwater.
The new Affordable Waters Reform and proposed amendments to the original Three Waters Reform proposal follow feedback to the Government from local councils. Councils expressed concerns that the four entity model would result in a loss of local influence and voice. These discussions highlighted the need to ensure the entities are more closely connected with the communities they serve. This is so that all New Zealanders can have confidence that the entities will listen and respond to their needs.
Find out more
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has published numerous reports and information materials to help councils and communities understand the Affordable Waters Reform programme. We have included a selection of these below, along with reports from other sources. You can view further information on www.waterservicesreform.govt.nz or www.dia.govt.nz.
View the reports
Transforming the System for Delivering Three Waters Services
A 41-page report that makes the case for changing the way three waters services are provided. The report was developed following the launch of Three Waters Reform and has not been update for the Affordable Waters Reform.
Author: Department of Internal Affairs
Entity A: The Use and Analysis of the RFI information and other benchmarks
A 64-page report that explains the model used to calculate the costs of providing three water services under the Government’s reform proposal.
Author: Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS)
A one-page document with key data about the FNDC’s three waters services, including costs to households if the council opts in or out of the programme.
Review of WICS Data
A 20-page report the FNDC commissioned to help it assess the accuracy of the WICS financial model.
Author: Morrison Low
Advice on Water Reform Opt-out
A 33-page report that challenges the WICS analysis, particularly in relation to benefits the reform programme will deliver to Whangārei District. We have also provided a five-page response from the Department of Internal Affairs.
Annual Report on Drinking Water Quality 2019/20
A 102-page report that summarises drinking water supply compliance with the Health Act (1956).
Author: Ministry of Health
Audit, Risk and Finance Committee reports
Two recent reports about Northland Regional Council abatement notices and the resilience of water supplies.
Author: Far North District Council