10 Dec 2021

Three Waters Entities Bill delayed to allow feedback from working group

12:20 pm on 10 December 2021

The legislation setting up the government's three waters entities has been delayed to give the working group time to recommend changes to governance and accountability.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced in October the government would push ahead with its reforms, forcing councils to take part through legislation.

However, after considering largely negative feedback from councils, the minister said she would set up working groups, one of which would work to ensure representation, governance and accountability concerns could be resolved under the government's preferred model.

The reforms would move the management of three waters (drinking, waste and stormwater) assets out of the hands of the country's 67 councils, to four large water entities, with the aim of providing better water services around the country at a lower cost.

She had planned to introduce the legislation by the end of this year, but with the [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/455403/three-waters-working-group-named-terms-of-reference-released governance working group not set up until November, that would give little time to build their feedback into the law.

In a statement, Mahuta said draft legislation had now been prepared and would 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.

"The issues facing New Zealand's water infrastructure are nothing less than urgent, but we must ensure the legislation is robust and fit for purpose. This process will ensure the strength of the reforms and fully take into account the feedback from the eight-week engagement period," Mahuta said.

"The government will continue to progress early transition activity and remains committed to the core objectives of reform - to ensure all New Zealanders have access to safe, affordable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services that meet their expectations now and into the future."

"The Exposure Draft Bill will made available to the Working Group in the coming days, as well as on the DIA website for public viewing."

The four entities are expected to begin officially operating from July 2024.

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