Three Waters Reform

What does it mean for North Auckland
The announcement by the Minister for Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, that the Government will create four publicly owned water entities to ensure every New Zealander has access to affordable, long-lasting drinking, waste and storm water infrastructure without ballooning costs to households and families, is a positive decision for Auckland and Northland.
Over the last four years the Government has been investigating a range of options using the best of international and local expertise – and has robustly tested the options with oversight and guidance of the joint Central/Local Government steering committee.
The investigation included assessing options such as central government funding to the status quo, sector-led shared service delivery and regional models, introducing a national centralised fund similar to the NZTA-type model, and regulatory reform alone. The Water Industry Commission for Scotland also assessed 30 different aggregation scenarios ranging from two to 16 entities. Other models considered were unsustainable and unaffordable for large parts of the country.
The reforms are aimed to ensure that all New Zealanders have safe drinking water and to ensure that the fixing our ageing water infrastructure and guaranteeing safe and affordable water for all New Zealanders is actioned. The provision of safe drinking water supplies has been a long-term challenge that successive Governments have ignored, but that the reforms intend to fix.
The reforms will create four dedicated and publicly owned water entities. Without these, we’ll keep seeing burst pipes, contaminated water, and skyrocketing costs for households.
The case for change is clear:
!   34,000 New Zealanders get sick from drinking water each year
!   Many councils regularly have boil notices in place and close beaches over summer because they aren’t safe to swim in due to sewerage discharge
!   64% of councils don’t have water revenues to meet the full costs of running water services and assets
!   20% of all water supplies serving 100 people or more don’t achieve full compliance with New Zealand drinking water standards
New Zealanders deserve better, and something has to change especially as the cost of each council fixing these problems is very high and will see water costs balloon for the vast majority of New Zealanders over the coming years.
The Government has looked at all the options and sought local and international expert advice, and everyone reaches the same conclusion: this plan offers the most cost-effective way to guarantee safe drinking water and the $185 billion of investment needed in water infrastructure over the coming decades.
As well, the Government received feedback from councils through the 8-week engagement period helped identify areas for refinement of the new entities – such as in the area of representation and accountability.
The Government will continue to work in good faith with local government to refine the outstanding details of the reforms design and will establish three technical reference groups, similar to the Stormwater Technical Working Group, that will include, iwi, industry and local government experts. These groups will help refine the reform proposals with regard to oversight and accountability; rural supplies; and the resource management interface.
This further work will be conducted within the government’s reform bottom lines of good governance, partnership with mana whenua, public ownership and operational and financial autonomy.
The Three Waters Reforms will save New Zealanders money (amounting to thousands
per year, for many households), keep water assets in public ownership and make it harder to sell them, create jobs across the country, and boost growth.
If we don’t act now, the question will always remain as “When?” As we know, procrastination is rarely a winning strategy. Putting our water reforms off will only see the costs rise.
Marja Lubeck. Labour List MP

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