Three Waters Reform Programme

What is this about?

The Government recently announced a proposal to change the way three waters services (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) are provided in New Zealand. Currently, 67 councils own and run most of New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services. The Far North District Council owns and operates eight water supplies, 16 wastewater schemes and 22 urban stormwater drainage networks.

The Government believes the nation’s three waters services could be provided more efficiently if they were delivered by fewer entities. It is proposing to establish four publicly-owned entities governed by independent boards to deliver three waters services in New Zealand. These services would be provided in the Far North by an entity covering the Northland and Auckland areas (Zone A).

The Council is considering what is best for the Far North. We want to know what residents think before deciding whether to opt in or out of the reform programme. 

What is the Government proposing? 

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Why are reforms needed? 

The Three Waters 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 three waters infrastructure.

The Government believes that local government is facing urgent challenges in the provision of three waters services. These challenges include funding infrastructure deficits, complying with 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 will replace the Ministry of Health as New Zealand’s drinking water regulator. Taumata Arowai will be responsible for ensuring that all communities have access to safe drinking water. It will also have an oversight role in protecting the environment from the impacts of wastewater and stormwater.

Issues to consider  

Find out more

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has published numerous reports and information materials to help councils and communities understand the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme. We have included a selection of these below, along with reports from other sources. We encourage you to review these and then take our Three Waters Reform survey below. We recommend you look at information on DIA’s website at as well. You can also email any questions to

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.
Author: Department of Internal Affairs

A New System for Three Waters Service Delivery
A two-page diagrammatic overview of the Government’s reform proposal.
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)
Data Dashboard 
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

Three Waters Reforms Programme –Support package
An eight-page document that outlines the financial support councils will receive if they join the programme.
Author: Department of Internal Affairs

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
Local Government Reform Timeline
A two-page document showing the scope of unprecedented reform in the local government sector, including reform of three waters, resource management and the purpose of local government.
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 

Audit-Risk-Finance-Commitee-Water-supply-resilience.pdf(PDF, 205KB)
Audit-Risk-Finance-Committee-NRC-abatement-notices.pdf(PDF, 224KB) 


What are the options? 

Option 1 - Opt in to the reform programme

The Council has already voted to provisionally opt out of the reform programme until it has enough information to make an informed decision. This is not a final decision and it doesn’t prevent the Council from rejoining the programme. If the Council decides to opt in to the programme, ownership of three waters infrastructure would transfer to a new entity on 1 July 2024. The Council would collectively own this entity with other councils. However, it would not be responsible for the provision of three waters services. It would also receive a one-off payment of $35 million for three waters assets.

Option 2 - Opt out of the reform programme

The Council has already voted to provisionally opt out of the reform programme until it has enough information to make an informed decision. This is not a final decision, but may be one the community supports. If the Council decides to stay out of the programme, ownership of three waters infrastructure and responsibility for providing three waters service would remain with the Council. However, it would likely have to comply with new and higher standards, as well as new consumer protections.

Option 3 - Don't know or unable to decide?

We are asking the community to have a say on this issue based on what we know right now. We appreciate that some people may feel they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision, so we are providing a ‘don’t know’ option as well. Only select this option if you are unable to make a decision or need more information before you are in position to make a decision. We encourage you to read the reports on our website before deciding how to answer.

Our Three Waters Reform survey

The Mayor and Councillors were due to decide in November whether to opt in or out of the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme. Before making that decision, they asked for feedback from the community and engaged independent research company, Key Research, to undertake a poll of Far North residents randomly selected from the General and Māori Electoral Rolls. Due to the high level of public interest, the survey was also opened to anyone who wanted to have a say on the issue. The survey ran for four weeks and closed on 22 October 2021. Key Research delivered results of the anonymous survey early in November and the Council considered these at its 4 November meeting. However, the ability to opt in or out of the reforms was no longer available. On 27 October, the Government announced it would introduce legislation to amalgamate all council-owned three waters services into four regional entities. Read the latest information about the Three Waters Reform Programme on the Department of Internal Affairs website here.

You can view results of the Key Research survey below. One report provides results of those invited to participate from the General and Māori Electoral Rolls, the other provides results from the public or ‘self-selected’ respondents.

Last updated 17 November 2021