Challenges for councils
At the moment, New Zealand's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the 'three waters') services are mostly provided by 67 local councils, including ours.
However, councils around the country are facing a number of challenges, including:
- large debt and affordability issues
- meeting safety standards and environmental expectations
- building resilience to natural hazards and climate change into their three waters networks
- supporting the growth of their communities.
The Water Industry Commission for Scotland estimates that $120 to $185 billion needs to be invested in New Zealand's water services over the next 30 years, while the combined forecast spend in councils’ latest long-term budgets is about $81 billion.
There are also increasing concerns about the quality of New Zealand's drinking water and the safety of the infrastructure that delivers it.
The Government's inquiry into the 2016 drinking-water contamination outbreak in Havelock North, and the following Three Waters Review, has led to the introduction of a new national regulator for water services called Taumata Arowai.
Taumata Arowai will have responsibility for overseeing and enforcing new drinking-water regulations and providing oversight of the environmental impacts of wastewater and stormwater.
The Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Act, passed in July 2020, established Taumata Arowai as a Crown entity. Taumata Arowai will not become fully operational until the new Water Services Bill becomes law.
Water Services Bill
The Government's Water Services Bill is expected to be passed into law later this year.
The Bill contains all of the details of the new drinking-water regulations, the requirements for the protection of freshwater supplies, and Taumata Arowai’s wastewater and stormwater functions.
Once passed, Taumata Arowai will become New Zealand’s drinking water regulator, replacing the Ministry of Health.