Three Waters


Ownership & safeguards against privatisation

The Water Services Entities Bill ensures the entities will provide safe, affordable and sustainable water services and be publicly-owned.


Under this legislation territorial authorities within an entity boundary will collectively own the water service entity on behalf of the communities they serve.

This council ownership will be through a shareholding structure. Each territorial authority will be given one share in the water services entities per 50,000 people in its district (rounded up).

This shareholding is designed as a protection against privatisation as all territorial authorities will hold shares. While larger councils will have a greater number of shares (based on population), this does not come with additional influence over the entities. For example, each shareholder would only have one vote in any privatisation proposal, regardless of the numbers of shares they hold.

The Three Waters reforms will not transfer privately-owned water supplies to the new water services entities.

Safeguards against privatisation

Continued public ownership of these water services is a bottom line for the Government. Safeguards against future privatisation are written into this legislation to maintain ongoing public ownership of the new water services entities.

This includes the public shareholding structure that makes community ownership clear, with shares held by councils on behalf of their communities. This share-holding model will help protect against privatisation, as all shareholders would have to unanimously agree to any privatisation proposal.

Following this, communities will be the ultimate guardians of public ownership through a provision for a public referendum with any future proposal for privatisation requiring 75 per cent of votes in favour to carry it.

Further safeguards against future privatisation are written into the Bill to ensure ongoing public ownership of the new entities and the three waters assets transferred to them from local councils. This includes joint oversight of water services entities by mana whenua and local government and clear legislative protections that state that an entity must not divest its ownership in a water service, or sell or lose control of significant infrastructure.