Legislation is required to make the changes to enable Three Waters reform.
Water Services Entities Act
The Water Services Entities Act is the first piece of legislation that will enable reform. This Act confirms the shareholding model proposed by the Government, providing certainty around council ownership of the new Water Services Entities.
This legislation ensures communities will have a say in running and oversight of the new Water Services Entities, while giving those entities the financial and operational independence they need to deliver for New Zealanders.
On 11 November 2022, the Finance and Expenditure Committee reported back post the Select Committee process. The Committee considered over 80,000 submissions on this legislation. Approximately 139 amendments have been made to the Bill as a result of submissions made by New Zealanders.
The amendments the Government has agreed to will strengthen representation, improve local voice, and increase transparency. They also improve certainty for councils, and those working in the three waters sector. These changes strengthen the ability of the Water Services Entities to deliver sustainable water services and protect the health and well-being of communities today and for future generations.
All recommendations positively impact the way the entities will operate from 1 July 2024.
You can read the Act in full on New Zealand Legislation’s website.
Water Services Legislation Bill
The Water Services Entities Legislation Bill provides the new Water Services Entities with the necessary legislative functions, responsibilities, and powers to be fully operational from their ‘go live’ date on 1 July 2024.
This Bill will establish the detailed powers, functions and duties of the new Water Services Entities which are necessary for them to deliver water services to communities in place of territorial authorities.
It also encompasses transfer of assets and liabilities. It will provide Water Services Entities with powers to carry out work in relation to water services infrastructure on or under land. These are a combination of existing powers available to local authorities under local government legislation, together with similar powers available to other utilities in the gas, electricity and telecommunications sectors. The powers include safeguards in relation to how these powers are exercised on Māori land.
The Bill will also contain:
- Provisions to recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
- A compliance, monitoring and enforcement regime.
- Regulatory functions and powers, which will replace and modernise the existing bylaws framework.
- Provisions to protect vulnerable consumers.
- Provisions regarding transfers of local-government-owned mixed-use rural water supplies.
The Bill does not establish economic regulation and a consumer protection framework for the three waters system. This is being developed in another bill – the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill – led by Minister Clark.
The Water Services Legislation Bill will also integrate the entities into other regulatory systems, such as the resource management system.
The public have an opportunity to have their say on this Bill with public submissions now open.