Reform could cost country $185 billion 

Waipa still waits for more information on reform.

New Zealand may need up to four water entities investing as much as $185 billion into water infrastructure over the next 30 years.

The Department of Internal Affairs last week published four evidence-based reports, commissioned by the Three Waters Steering Committee, building a case for changing the provision of three waters.

The Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme – a three-year programme to reform local government drinking water, wastewater and stormwater service delivery arrangements, 12 months ago.

It aims to substantially change the way water is managed – at present 67 different councils own and operate the majority the three water services across the country.

Waipā has committed to be part of the reform in good faith but is not bound to it. In August 2020 it signed up to the Three Waters Services Reform through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Crown.

As a result, it opened up significant funding for water infrastructure.

The reform would see the projects paid for by councils being handed over to the Government to be managed.

The latest report provides detailed evidence, at a national scale, of the challenges communities face under the current three waters arrangements, and the opportunities that result from providing these services in a different way.

It says the scale of the infrastructure investment needed across the country is a much larger than initially thought.

This would come at a significant cost to communities, raising concerns around affordability for, particularly for smaller rural communities.

The report says New Zealand has an opportunity to achieve efficiencies of around 45 per cent through reform over a 30-year period.

Waipā Mayor Jim Mylchreest said the reports did not provide detail around local implications but did contain some regional analysis of economic impacts.

“Until our Council receives all of the relevant information, which won’t be for a few more weeks yet, we’re not in a position to say whether or not an alternative future model for delivering water services is appropriate for Waipā,” he said.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is expected to announce Cabinet decisions on what the Government intends to do with the advice in the coming months.

For more details on the Three Waters Reform Programme go to www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme.

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