The pace and scale of Government’s Three Waters Reform programme was highlighted in an update report to the Mayor and Councillors at today’s Hamilton City Council meeting.
In Mayor Paula Southgate’s chair’s report earlier in the meeting, she referred to the lightning speed of multiple reform programmes, and the pace with which Council and staff had been required to respond through the year.
That pace was emphasised in the Three Waters Reform update, with the Water Services Bill enacted in the past week to establish, under law, the four new entities which will take over water services from councils in July 2024.
At the same time, two further Bills were introduced and had their first reading in Parliament. These were a technical extension of the new Water Services Act (the Water Services Legislation Bill), and the Economic Regulation and Consumer Protection Bill.
The Economic Regulator Bill sets a framework to ensure the new waters entities have guaranteed service levels for their communities, work within controls on pricing, service and revenue, and establish a dispute resolution service to protect consumers.
Both Bills have been referred to Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee, which will report back to Parliament by 25 May 2023. Public submissions are open on both Bills before 12 February 2023.
The Ministry for Business, Environment, and Innovation (MBIE) released a discussion document on the establishment of an economic regulator for the water services in 2021. In December 2021 Council provided a submission on the discussion document, noting its support for an economic regulator and adding: ‘An economic regulator, with the ability to require water service providers to disclose information, directly regulate the price and quality of services, and set a strong efficiency challenge for regulated businesses, would be beneficial to Hamiltonians.’