Consultation via a select committee process has opened on two new Bills related to the Government’s reform programme. Submissions must be received by February 12 2023.
Three Waters services – drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater – are managed by 67 councils nationwide. The Government is creating four publicly-owned regional entities to manage these services (instead of councils) from July 2024.
Hamilton City Council recognises some change is needed but is opposed to the current 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 four new regional organisations to manage Three Waters services, instead of 67 individual councils.
In mid- December Government announced two further Bills – the Water Services Legislation Bill and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill.
These bills, alongside the Water Services Entities Act which officially became law in December, lay the legal framework for the four new entities which will take over water services from councils in July 2024.
The legislation in place means the new entity has been created and exists under law.
- The Water Services Legislation Bill is essentially an extension of the new Water Services Entities Act and details technical aspects of the reform. It establishes and empowers the new water services entities by setting out their functions, powers, obligations, and oversight arrangements.
- 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.
The Government says the changes will reduce future costs for ratepayers through economies of scale, will protect the environment and public health, support housing and infrastructure development, and deliver services in an efficient and sustainable way.
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.
If the Government meets its planned timelines, Council will not be delivering water services after July 2024. Hamilton’s water services would be delivered by an entity covering Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, and parts of Manawatu-Whanganui.
Council’s most recent submission (July 2022) was 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.
Council's latest submission to Government
In June and July 2022, in preparation for a submission to Government, Council consulted with its community on the Water Services Entities Bill. The Bill was introduced to Parliament on 2 June 2022, and had its first reading on 9 June 2022. It was referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee for public submissions before 22 July 2022.
The tight timeframes between the legislation being available and the closing date for submissions to the select committee meant the consultation period was restricted, but more than 1200 Hamiltonians gave their views. All responses from the community were included in Council’s comprehensive submission.
Council is strongly opposed to the passing of the Bill in its present form and recommended to the select committee the Bill be withdrawn.
Its submission noted the consultation process ‘clearly showed community concern over loss of local voice, insufficient financial detail and the loss of ownership and decision-making rights over its Three Waters assets and services.’
Other key concerns included a lack of a guaranteed seat for Hamilton on the representation arrangements for the new entities, and the subsequent risk to strategic planning of the city’s water services.
The select committee is expected to report back to Parliament by November 2022. If the Bill is passed, the entities will be established, and will commence delivery of services on 1 July 2024.
Last updated 27 January 2023