Three Waters Reform

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Following the serious campylobacter outbreak in 2016 and the Government’s Inquiry into Havelock North drinking water, central and local government have been considering the issues and opportunities facing the system for regulating and managing the three waters (drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater).

The focus has been on how to ensure safe drinking water, improve the environmental performance and transparency of wastewater and stormwater network, and deal with funding and affordability challenges, particularly for communities with small rating bases or high-growth areas that have reached their prudential borrowing limits.

Today, on behalf of their communities, 67 different councils including Upper Hutt own, maintain, and run most of the country’s water services. However, councils face several challenges to deliver these in an affordable way into the future, including ageing infrastructure, growth, and the impacts of climate change.

Everyone agrees that more investment is needed in water infrastructure—it was reflected in our recent Long Term Plan. But ultimately each council will need to decide what service delivery arrangements are most appropriate, based on the interests of their communities and the community’s wellbeing (now and into the future).

What's happened so far?

November 2022 - on 11 November the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee issued its report on the Water Services Entities Bill.

The Bill establishes four publicly owned dedicated water services entities that will provide safe, reliable, and efficient water services through improved investment and management.

The Committee considered over 80,000 submissions on this legislation. As a result of submissions, approximately 130 amendments have been made to the Bill. Given the Bill has 228 clauses (plus schedules), the number of changes to address feedback is substantial and significant.

You can find more information in this summary of the proposed(PDF, 160KB)  changes or the full Select Committee report on the NZ Parliament website.

For other general information about the reforms visit

July 2022 - the Chair of the Government Finance and Expenditure Committee is calling for public submissions on the Water Services Entities Bill. You can make a submission at the New Zealand Parliament Website Water Services Entities Bill.  Closes 22 July. 

View Upper Hutt City Council's submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee(PDF, 153KB)

June 2022 - on 2 June 2022, the Government announced legislation which will enable the creation of the new Water Services Entities (WSEs). National consultation opened on 10 June 2022.

As well as setting up the new WSEs so they can be ready in two years’ time, the Bill locks in council ownership of the WSEs on behalf of the communities. Councils will have one share per 50,000 people in their area, rounded up – so each council will have at least one share.

The legislation is trying to ensure communities will have a say in the running of the new water organisations through council and iwi oversight, while giving WSEs the financial and operational independence they need to get on with the job. Although the governance and feedback structure is quite complex and convoluted.

Read the Bill online at You can have your say on the ownership, governance and accountability arrangements of these new entities in the Bill by making a Select Committee submission. Visit to find out more about this process. We are also making a submission.

You will also be able to give your views to the select committee until 22 July 2022.  

March 2022 - in March, Councillors voted to sign up to Communities 4 Local Democracy. We’re one of 31 councils representing around 1.5 million people from Cape Reinga to the Waitaki River and from Haast to Mahia. Communities 4 Local Democracy believe that we can do better than the ‘one size fits none’ proposals from Government, and that we can deliver better services while still being affordable and locally responsive.

Communities 4 Local Democracy supports the higher standards being put into place by the Government’s new water regulator Taumata Arowai. Local Government is ready to work together to deliver these improvements while keeping locally focused and responsive services. To find out more and to read the proposal, go to

December 2021 - the Government announced the Three Waters Entities Bill will be delayed to give the working group time to recommend changes to governance and accountability. Draft legislation has been prepared and will be made public, giving the working group until 28 February to report back and recommend any changes. The bill would be introduced to Parliament shortly after.

November 2021 - we launched a residents survey to seek feedback from our community on the Government’s decision to go ahead with the Three Waters Reform, despite concern and opposition raised by councils from across the country.  The survey closed on 28 November and a report on the results went to Council on 15 December. The Government also named the Three Waters working group and released the terms of reference

Initially the Government said there would be a community engagement process, where local communities would be given the opportunity to express their views and provide feedback about the Three Waters Reform.  

In the most recent announcement, the Minister for Local Government indicated there will not be a local community consultation process. Instead, communities/public will have an opportunity to provide feedback through the select committee process. 

October 2021 - the Government announced they would be progressing the Three Waters Reform. You can watch the announcement and read a summary of local Government feedback on the proposal on the DIA website

September 2021 - Council submitted its feedback to Government on the Three Waters Reform(PDF, 297KB)

July 2020 - along with announcing the Three Waters Reform, the Government also announced an initial funding package of $761 million to provide a post COVID-19 stimulus to maintain and improve water three waters infrastructure, support a three-year programme of reform of local government water service delivery arrangements (reform programme), and support the establishment of Taumata Arowai, the new Waters Services Regulator.

The initial stage (Tranche 1 – Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Funding Agreement, Delivery Plan and Request for Information (RFI) process, was an opt-in, non-binding approach. It did not require councils to commit to future phases of the reform programme.

We completed the RFI process over Christmas and New Year 2020/21 and the Government has used this information, evidence, and modelling to make preliminary decisions on the next stages of reform and has concluded that the case for change has been made. Here is the full report on the case for change.


What's being proposed?

The Government is proposing four new, large water service delivery entities. Their scale means they would be able to borrow enough to fund the investment needed in water services and infrastructure over the next 30 years.

Upper Hutt City Council would be in entity C with 22 other councils from the east coast of the North Island, the Wellington region, and the top of the South Island. View the map at Department of Internal Affairs Working Groups site.

All councils have been given until end of September 2021 to review the information on the Government’s current proposals, including their $2.5billon support package, and to provide feedback. Details on this financial support package can be found here Financial support package.

The Government announced on October 2021 they would be progressing the Three Waters Reform.

What could it mean for Upper Hutt City?

The proposed “better off” funding allocated to Upper Hutt City Council from central government is $18m. However, the Wellington Water shareholder Councils are required to share this funding with Greater Wellington Regional Council, which means that it is anticipated that the net funding allocation for Upper Hutt City Council will be $16.7m. There is likely to be “no worse off” funding available to Upper Hutt City Council. 

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has prepared some dashboards containing information regarding various territorial authority areas, to help councils and their communities understand how elements of the three waters system are performing and the potential impact of the reform for councils. The FAQs put together by DIA are here Council Dashboard FAQs. The link to the dashboards is here Council Dashboards.

Our dashboard looks like this: 


How can I find out more information?

You can visit the Department of Internal Affairs Three Waters webpage.

Taumata Arowai became a new Crown entity in March 2021 and will become the dedicated water services regulator when the Water Services Bill passes, expected to be in the second half of 2021. Obligations of water suppliers can be found here

Water NZ has put together water supply performance information of various Councils. This can be found here WaterNZ dashboard.

Council is considering a report on the Three Waters reform at its meeting on 22 September 2021. The report can be found here Council report(PDF, 17MB)