Explore our frequently asked questions below for more information.
All New Zealanders deserve to have safe, affordable and reliable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. Changes are needed in the way New Zealand manages its water services in order to deliver this, especially given the challenges of ageing infrastructure, population growth, climate change, and natural disasters.
Estimates show between $120 billion and $185 billion of investment is required over the next 30 years. This is unaffordable for ratepayers unless we do things differently.
We are creating four new Water Services Entities that will each be much bigger than any of the 67 individual councils currently delivering water services and they will be financially separate from councils.
Making the new water services organisations financially separate from councils allows them to borrow more money to fund the significant upgrade of our three waters system over the coming decades.
Borrowing to fund this work is fairer for households and businesses as it spreads the costs over a much longer timeframe rather than requiring today’s ratepayers to meet most of the costs in the form of higher rates.
If your water services, like tap water, wastewater and stormwater drains are provided by your local council, from 1 July 2024 these services will instead be provided by a Water Services Entity.
Instead of ratepayers paying for water services as part of their rates bill, in future they will pay one of the new entities for water services. The costs of the significant investment required in three water infrastructure will be more affordable than they would be if we don’t make these changes.
The entities will:
- Put Te Mana o te Wai – the health and wellbeing of water – at the centre of what they do. This includes taking a wider catchment-based view of our water systems than is currently the case. While councils have many competing demands on council revenues from the rates they collect, the Water Services Entities will be exclusively focused on delivering healthy water systems, which are crucial for healthy communities.
- Manage costs by borrowing more over longer periods of time, making upgrades more affordable for New Zealanders, rather than putting most of the costs of long-term infrastructure onto today’s ratepayers.
- Enable more strategic long-term investment in water which is not affected by the three-year cycle of local body elections.
- Create new career opportunities for people who work in our water industry.
It’s estimated that $120-$185 billion will need to be invested in our water systems over the next 30 years. This is based on what is required to catch-up on decades of under-investment and continue to upgrade water infrastructure to meet health and environmental standards.
Households already pay for water services as part of their rates bill. In future, they will pay one of the new entities for water services.
Alongside this, the four Water Service Entities will have the scale and financial separation from councils that will enable them to borrow to fund the significant investment required in water infrastructure. This can be paid back over a much longer timeframe rather than being paid for up-front by today’s ratepayers. That makes it more affordable for everyone.
Yes. Each local council will own a proportional share of their Water Services Entity (based on population) and have input into their governance. Continued public ownership is a bottom line and the legislation includes extensive safeguards against privatisation.
Yes. A wide range of potential options have been investigated and tested over the past four years using the best international and local expertise, with oversight and guidance provided by a joint Central/Local Government steering committee.
The options assessed included:
- Central government funding for the status quo;
- Sector-led shared service delivery and regional models;
- Introducing a national centralised fund similar to the New Zealand Transport Agency/Waka Kotahi model; and
- Regulatory reform alone.
The Water Industry Commission for Scotland also assessed 30 different aggregation scenarios ranging from two to 16 entities.
The decision to progress with the creation of four new Water Services Entities that are financially separate from councils is the best way to enable the investment required in a way that is affordable for New Zealanders.
With this approach, we have the opportunity to build a world-class water system that continues to meet our needs into the future.
Te Mana o te Wai is the health and wellbeing of water. Putting it at the centre of the system is a whole different frame of reference for those responsible for delivering three waters services. It’s about taking a catchment-based and interconnected view of the water system from source to sea – ki uta, ki tai. It will require people, organisations and decision-makers to think about water as a living, breathing taonga in its own right that needs to be protected and enhanced.
Most New Zealand households currently pay for water services as part of their rates bill. In future, households will pay one of the new Water Services Entities for water services instead.
In the future, households will pay one of the new Water Services Entities for water services instead of their council. Therefore, it’s expected that rates bills will change to reflect the fact that councils are no longer providing these services.
From 1 July 2024, you will be able to contact your Water Services Entity through customer service channels, like phone or email, as you do now with your local council.
No, water collected for your own personal use is not affected by the reforms.
There will be more opportunities for communities to have input into water services than is the case currently. This is because the requirements for community engagement and consultation for the new Water Services Entities go above and beyond the provisions in the Local Government Act.
For Rural Communities
No, water collected for your own personal use is not affected by the reforms.
No, septic tanks are privately-owned and are not affected by the reforms.
Privately owned mixed-use water schemes will be unaffected by reform and will remain privately owned. Council owned mixed use water schemes will transfer over to the new Water Services Entities but users will have opportunity to transfer ownership and operation of their scheme to the communities who use them. Read more about this on the Rural Communities page.
A key feature of the reform is putting Te Mana o te Wai (the health and wellbeing of water) at the centre of the system, which creates a whole different frame of reference for those responsible for delivering three waters services. It’s about taking a catchment-based and interconnected view of the water system from source to sea – ki uta, ki tai. It will require people, organisations and decision-makers to think about water as a living, breathing taonga in its own right that needs to be protected and enhanced. This is important for iwi/Māori but is also something that benefits all New Zealanders.
The reforms create a framework for iwi/Māori to participate more in the delivery of water services, both at an oversight and service delivery level. Mana whenua bring an important perspective as kaitiaki (guardians) of Te Mana o te Wai.
- Oversight – Mana whenua will have equal representation alongside councils on the respective Regional Representative Group for each of the four Water Services Entities. Representative interests will need to be agreed by Māori for Māori through a kaupapa Māori process.
- Cultural and local expertise – The entities will need to have cultural and local expertise, providing opportunities for Māori to participate in the new delivery arrangements.
Putting Te Mana o te Wai at the heart of the system fundamentally changes how the new Water Services Entities will operate compared to the way water services are managed today.
- Te Mana o te Wai will be embedded into all aspects of each entity and will influence decision making, planning, governance, accountability and service delivery.
- Water Services Entities will be stewards of Te Mana o te Wai, and will support service providers/contractors with guidance and advice on how to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai.
- Water Services Entities will have a responsibility to educate New Zealanders to understand the principles of Te Mana o te Wai, and to change how we think about water to recognise its value and importance.
Water Services Entities will work to adopt different types of values and knowledge, such as mātauranga Māori.
Treaty settlements will continue to apply and be protected within the suite of three waters legislation.
For the Workforce
Council employees who primarily work in water services will be guaranteed a role with the new Water Services Entities on the same terms as their existing role. See Te Rapunga [insert link] for more detailed information.
Yes, our research shows that the reforms will create thousands of new jobs over the next 30 years, as well as new career pathways for people who work in water services. This is because the structural changes being made to three waters management and service delivery will enable much more much-needed investment in water infrastructure, requiring more workers and more specialisation.