Public submissions on the Government’s next pieces of legislation for Three Waters Reform have now closed. Hamilton City Council has made submissions on the two latest Bills – the Water Services Entities Legislation Bill, and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill.
The submissions were approved at Council’s 16 February meeting. An earlier meeting confirmed Council would like to speak to the select committees in support of its submissions. Mayor Paula Southgate and Deputy Mayor Angela O’Leary have been confirmed as Council’s representatives.
On June 7 and 8, 2023, Parliament’s cross-party Finance and Expenditure Committee reported back on the Water Services Economic Efficiency & Consumer Protection Bill and the Water Services Legislation Bill.
The committee recommends both Bills be passed and has recommended amendments.
The select committee noted the changes announced by Government in April 2023, regarding the number of entities and an extended timeline for transition but does not otherwise discuss these changes in its recommendations.
You can read the full reports on the bills here:
Council made submissions on both Bills in February 2023 which are available on this page.
The Economic Efficiency bill will establish an economic regulation and consumer protection regime for the water services sector. It subjects the new water services entities to the following forms of economic regulation: information disclosure, quality-only regulation, and price-quality regulation.
The Legislation bill amends a range of legislation relating to water services including the Water Services Entities Act 2022. If enacted, the bill and the Act would form a single Water Services Entities Act, detailing the new arrangements for the provision of water services in New Zealand.
There are four more stages for the passing of these Bills and their enactment. There is a Second Reading in Parliament where the Bill is voted on. If passed, it goes to a Committee of the Whole House where MPs consider any further changes and reports to Parliament. It then is voted on again at a Third Reading. If the vote is successful, the Bill is passed and goes for Royal Assent, where the Bill is signed by the Governor General and becomes an Act.
There is also further legislation planned to give effect to changes in the reform programme. DIA indicates an amendment bill will have its first reading on 28 June, with a select committee process and second and third readings expected in July.
On current timelines, DIA expect all related legislation to be passed by mid-August 2023.
Three Waters services – drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater – are managed by 67 councils nationwide. The Government is creating regional entities to manage these services (instead of councils). This change was planned to take place from 1 July 2024, but on 13 April 2023 Government announced changes to its programme.
The previously-planned four Water Services Entities will now become 10 WSEs. These 10 new WSEs will be based around already existing regional council groupings.
Under the four-entity model, Hamilton was grouped with 21 other councils in ‘Entity B’, one of four nationwide entities and encompassing Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and parts of Manawatu/Whanganui.
Hamilton City Council is now grouped with nine district councils in the geographic boundary of the Waikato Regional Council. The other councils are Waikato, Waipā, Thames-Coromandel, Matamata-Piako, Hauraki, Ōtorohanga, South Waikato, Waitomo and Taupo
Changing the reform model has changed the transition timeline and the establishment date of the entities. Entities can be stood up from 2025 and a staggered approach plans to have all entities fully operational by 1 July 2026.
Hamilton City Council recognises some change is needed but has been opposed to the four-entity model planned by the Government.
The Government says its reform addresses national challenges, including ageing infrastructure and historical under-investment by councils. There is also a bow-wave of wastewater plants to be reconsented, source water contamination, higher consumer expectations, the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, and huge looming costs.
The Government’s view is that current arrangements will not be able to address these challenges.
Some aspects of the reform have been completed – a change to regulations through the Water Services Bill, and the creation of a new regulator (Taumata Arowai) which has taken over drinking water compliance from the Ministry of Health. The third phase is a change to the delivery of services, creating new regional organisations to manage Three Waters services, instead of 67 individual councils.
In mid- December 2022 Government announced two further Bills – the Water Services Legislation Bill and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill. A further Bill, the Water Services Entities Amendment Bill, was introduced in June 2023 to account for the changes announced in April (the move from four entities to 10, and a staged transition to the new entities).
These bills, alongside the Water Services Entities Act which officially became law in December, lay the legal framework for the new entities which will take over water services from councils.
The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection 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.
As the reform programme has developed, we have been advocating on behalf of the Hamilton community, providing feedback to the Government at every opportunity, and ensuring the organisation is prepared for any change.
Council’s most recent submission (July 2023) was on the Water Services Entities Amendment Bill.
In February 2023 Council submitted on the Water Services Entities Legislation Bill, and on a Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill.
Earlier, Council made a July 2022 submission to Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee considering the Water Services Entities Bill. Council has also submitted to a working party on governance aspects of the reform (February 2022), and to the Minister of Local Government and Government (October 2021).
The full submissions are available below.
Other Council submissions
Last updated 17 February 2023