There is broad agreement in the water industry that reform in the sector has been a long time coming.
The government's Three Waters plan, which is set to take water services out of the hands of councils and create four publicly-owned companies to cover the country, is front and centre of the Water New Zealand Conference in Ōtautahi, Christchurch this week.
While attendees thought the plan had merit, some believed it had not been well-communicated or understood.
The conference kicked off with a speech from Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, to the 1500 attendees from councils and companies across the motu.
"We have challenges we are already facing and which are ahead of us, in the form of ageing infrastructure, population growth, climate change, and natural disasters," Mahuta said.
"As you know, we've been talking about these issues for years, but the time to act is now," she said.
"Change is urgently needed."
Council conference delegate Robin Walker said the country's water infrastructure needed to be brought up to scratch.
"My honest view is that I believe it's the right thing for the country. And I also believe that the legislation will be so far advanced that there won't be such a great opportunity for councils to opt out."
Thirty-one councils have joined together to oppose Three Waters, in a group called Communities 4 Local Democracy.
Another council delegate, Victoria Araba, said she understood why councils felt their voices were not being heard in the reform process.
"I feel like they feel the choice has been taken away from them and they've been forced to do something that maybe they could have accepted or agreed to do [without it being made mandatory]," Araba said.
"Councils should be better consulted with and taken on the journey [with central government]."
Tiaki Environmental senior environmental engineer and director Gavin Sole said most people in the water industry understood the reforms and why they were needed.
But the public should be given more information, Sole said.
"Some people are very strongly opposed to it. I think [their opposition] comes from a cost point of view and an ownership point of view," he said.
"But actually the ownership still stays with the councils, with the people. The costs, hopefully, should go down and we do need a better partnership with the Treaty of Waitangi, [with] iwi on board."
The Three Waters plan would go ahead, despite the opposition, he said.
"I think there's enough will in the industry that will actually push it through. Solitary councils, or collectively a group of strong councils against it, I can't see that they'd have a good enough reasoning for it to not go through."
Water New Zealand chief executive Gillian Blythe said regardless of how the national water infrastructure was updated, it would require more funding.
"The conversation that we are having as a community across the country is how do we have a model for Three Waters that gets outcomes that you and I can afford, and delivers us safe drinking water and improved environmental outcomes for wastewater and stormwater," Blythe said.
The conference concludes tomorrow.