Conform to Reform: What are the immediate challenges that the Three Waters reforms bring?

Conform to Reform: What are the immediate challenges that the Three Waters reforms bring?

After attending the Water NZ, Building Nations and IPWEA conferences recently, and talking to the wide range of people involved in the water sector, there are some common themes emerging about the reforms, the process and the Water Services Bill’s implications.

Local government CEOs and politicians are trying to anticipate what new structures, infrastructure and investment will be needed once the Water Services Bill becomes law. The conversations we are having in that space are around what the new aggregation structures will look like, how councils can position for it and what the costs and benefits are likely to be.

Asset and Three Waters' managers, who will be charged with implementing the reforms, are thinking about the shape of the new aggregated entities, funding streams and procurement processes. They’re also trying to anticipate what capabilities and capacity they will need to ensure compliance and continuity of service.

These are all important questions, and we have discussed potential options and answers at great length, but in reality it is too early to be sure what will actually happen.

The next three to six months will be critical in clarifying the possible shape of the new water services' entities and their extent. While a lot of work is currently being done by the DIA and others to establish the structure and processes, it’s too early to be certain about new structures during the Water Services Bill’s passage through Parliament, and subsequent regulation.

However, I think we’re likely to see between two and seven asset-owning multi-regional water services corporations that will deliver Three Waters’ services to their constituent councils. These entities will be designed to produce significant economies of scale and efficiencies in Three Waters’ service delivery. 

Ultimately, I think our common hope is that the water reforms will deliver safe drinking water for all New Zealanders, improved wastewater discharges to ensure we have clean waterways and swimmable watercourses for our children and mokopuna.

I’m looking forward to next year and being involved in helping to shape this new future. If you would like to reach out and discuss the reforms and their impacts with me, I welcome you to do so.

Please email me directly, and I’ll set up a time.

Meri Kirihimete to you and your whānau.