Three waters provision could mix contrasting needs in Northland and Auckland

4:11 pm on 2 April 2021

Northlanders could find themselves thrown in with Auckland's watercare as New Zealand's biggest-ever restructure of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management plays out.

Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith.

Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith. Photo: Supplied / Northern Advocate

Billions of dollars of water provision infrastructure across Northland's four councils could be jointly in the fold with a new supersized company also including Auckland Watercare's corresponding assets - as part of national three waters change that will also fundamentally alter local government.

Dr Jason Smith, Northland Mayoral Forum chair, said in the wake of a national three waters reform roadshow visit to Whangārei yesterday, that the new entity for managing three waters infrastructure across the North was to be in place by 2024. This aligned with the start of councils' next three-yearly update of long term budget planning for the 2024-2034 decade.

Northlanders' reticulated drinking water, wastewater and stormwater is currently typically provided by Far North District Council, Kaipara District Council and Whangārei District Council. Northland Regional Council is also part of three waters restructuring.

The Northland Mayoral Forum represents the region's four council mayors and chair along with chief executives.

Northland's local government political and management leaders were among 90 local government elected representatives, senior management, hapū and iwi attending roadshow workshop.

It was the final of eight three waters reform steering committee workshops in a national roadshow, from which more than 1000 items of feedback will be collated in a report feeding into the national restructure.

Smith said three waters reform was fast-paced. Northland hapū and iwi in particular were concerned about this fast pace at yesterday's meeting.

The government wants to restructure New Zealand's three waters provision away from the current 78 councils to fewer larger entities. Debate has raged over the shape and size of those entities and how much of New Zealand would be in each.

Smith said three or four entities were now being talked of across the country.

Combining with Auckland three waters provision will see the sector's needs of 25,000 Kaipara residents, almost 69,000 Far North residents and almost 100,000 Whangārei residents combined with those of 1.5 million people.

Northlanders have for generations paid billions of dollars towards the pipes, treatment plants, dams and other infrastructure needed to provide their reticulated drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management.

Smith said more information from the government was needed before Northland councils made any decsion on 'where to from here' around possibility of combining with Auckland Council as a result of three waters restructure.

There was much debate of whether and how Auckland would or wouldn't be involved in the national restructure would happen and which current council entities might or might not combine with it.

One key area that needed sorting going forward was how the large number of Northlanders not on reticulated water supply would be dealt with, he said. This included hundreds of marae.

Some areas such as Kaipara had less than 30 percent of its people getting their water via reticulated systems.

The reforms shift ownership and management for currently council-owned drinking, waste and stormwater in a move that changes the face of local government across Northland and New Zealand.

It means removing fundamental income and operational functions from the region's councils.

Smith said stormwater management, which had appeared to drop off the three waters reform debate, was now back on the agenda.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

  • Wellington councils warned over risks around spending big on water infrastructure
  • South Wairarapa Mayor says Three Waters reform 'mockery of proper consultation'
  • Three Waters reforms: Government launches workshops to explain to iwi, councils
  • Three Waters legislation: Wellington Water wants a mayor on committee