Three Waters Reform

In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements

Update from Wednesday 15 September 2021

An initial analysis of how the government’s three waters reform proposal will impact the Coromandel was discussed in detail at this week’s Council meeting.

Our Council’s objective is to ensure any local decisions that are required are made in the best interests of our communities.
The Government is currently seeking feedback on the potential impacts of the proposed reform, with responses due by 1 October 2021.

Our Councillors have conducted an initial review, highlighted areas where further information is required, and raised a number of concerns, questions and discussion points. These include:

  • The appropriate mechanism to assess service provision requirements. Our Council thinks this should be rateable household property numbers, rather than usually resident population. The usually resident population-based funding model is limited and misrepresents the reality of the three water service delivery requirements for our district.
  • The entity boundary that is most appropriate for our district. It is proposed currently that we be part of Entity B – but Entity A is also an option.  Our Council has no confirmed position but will request meetings with interested parties, including iwi and our neighbouring districts to consider which makes most sense for all partners.
  • Requests water must remain in public ownership.
  • Council recognises and highlights this is a controversial issue and the feedback received from residents and ratepayers is to “opt-out”.
  • Community voice. Our elected members are interested in your thoughts and points of view on the reforms to help inform their positions and feedback to central Government. We are receiving a large amount of feedback already, and you can continue to send this to us at threewaters@tcdc.govt.nz

As a result of the large number of questions and issues raised in the initial analysis, our Council will also be requesting more time to understand in detail the potential impact of the complex reform in our District.

"These proposals are a once-in-a-generation decision for councils and communities, so it is crucial that communities are provided with enough time to engage meaningfully and genuinely with the process and better understand the implications of the proposals,” says our Mayor Sandra Goudie.

“We want to send a clear message that we are positively and constructively engaged in the feedback process to help improve the proposals,” she says.

Our Council isn’t required at this point in the process to make a decision on opting in or out of the reforms. If the reforms are not made mandatory by Government, then we will do an assessment and analysis of the possible options to ensure sufficient information is available to meet our decision-making requirements.

“The three waters reforms are being undertaken at the same time as, but separately to, other big local government reform processes,” says Mayor Sandra.

“The future shape of local government and the resource management process are both in the spotlight too, and we would like to see the three waters proposals clearly aligned with both of these reform processes for a more holistic and transparent approach,” she says.

You can read the full report on our Council’s concerns and questions here

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In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements.

Currently 67 different councils own and operate the majority of the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services across New Zealand.

The Government says the programme seeks to ensure no council is worse off and every community is better off after reform. It also sets councils up to focus on community wellbeing – and creates a precedent for working more closely with the Government.

The starting intention is to reform local government’s three waters services into a small number of multi-regional entities. The exact size, shape and design of these entities is still being worked through.

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has released a map (below) showing the proposed boundaries of the three entities.

According to the current proposal, Thames-Coromandel District is likely to be in Entity B under this scheme. The new water entities are expected to be operational from 01 July 2024.

Our Council is in the process of preparing feedback to give the Government on the map and hasn't firmed up a position on the overall proposal and boundaries yet. You can find this map and more information here

At the Local Government NZ (LGNZ) Conference in mid-July the Government announced a $2.5 billion package for councils as part of its three waters reform.

The package has three financial components:

  1. Support for local government to invest in communities’ wellbeing. This part of the investment totals $2 billion, with $500 million being available from 1 July 2022. It will be allocated between councils according to a nationally consistent formula, reflecting population (75 per cent), deprivation (20 per cent) and land area (5 per cent).
  2. Targeted support to ensure no councils are financially worse off as a result of transferring their three waters assets. This is designed to protect councils from any negative financial consequences of the asset transfer.
  3. Cover of reasonable transition costs. This is intended to make sure council service delivery (including of water services) during the transition isn’t compromised by the work needed to make the transition happen.
What does this mean for our Council?  

We’re waiting further information from DIA. As part of the announcement, it was noted that DIA is still to publish more detail about the package, including individual council allocations. This will assist our staff in understanding the implications of the announcement for our District and communities.  

The Three Waters Reform could potentially significantly change the way water infrastructure and services are delivered in our District.

What are the next steps?

During the eight weeks following the July announcement every council has a chance to take a close look at the reform proposals and assess their impact on them and their community.

Council staff have briefed our Councillors on the Government's proposal and got their thoughts on the impact of the proposed reforms, including the financial implications, involvement of iwi, what boundaries we might sit inside, and the scale of community input and feedback. This is being pulled together into a report that will go to our next Council meeting on 14 September.

That Council report won’t be talking about opting in or opting out of the reform programme, but will have responses to certain points.

After the eight-week period, the Government will consider next steps, including the process and revised timing for decision-making. No decisions on this have been made, or will be made, until after this engagement period.

During this eight-week period of analysis and consideration, LGNZ will support councils to understand what the package means for them. 

There is a commitment from all parties for the need to spend more time working through some issues that are important to all of us These are:

  • Ensuring all communities have both a voice in the system and influence over local decisions. This means being sure the water entities understand and act on communities’ needs and wants, including responding to localised concerns like a desire for chlorine-free water.
  • Effective representation on the new water entities’ oversight boards so that there is strong accountability to the communities they serve. This includes effective assurance that entities, which will remain in public ownership, cannot be privatised in future.
  • Making sure councils’ plans for growth are appropriately integrated with water services planning.

It is also noted that staff who work primarily on water will be guaranteed a role at the new water service entities. 

We want to hear from you

Send us your own thoughts and points of view on the reforms and how it could affect the Coromandel: threewaters@tcdc.govt.nz.

Where can you find more information on the reform 

You can see the overview of the programme here

You can also read more information on the reform programme on the DIA and LGNZ websites. 

So, what do other councils think?

You can find out what other councils around New Zealand think of this reform here