Taumata Arowai became a new Crown entity in March 2021. It is set to become the dedicated water services regulator for Aotearoa when the Water Services Bill passes, expected to be in the second half of 2021.
The Ministry of Health, as part of its portfolio, currently regulates all water standards.
Read more about Taumata Arowai – why they were established, who they are and what they’ll be doing when they become the water services regulator for Aotearoa.
What is Taumata Arowai responsible for?
- They will oversee and administer, and enforce a new, expanded and strengthened drinking-water regulatory system, to ensure all New Zealand communities have access to safe drinking water, and if need be they will hold suppliers to account.
- They will also provide oversight of the regulation, management, and environmental performance of wastewater and storm-water networks, including promoting public understanding of that performance.
Until the second half of 2021, drinking water suppliers are required to continue to comply with the Ministry of Health requirements that will continue to be the case, and all current requirements will remain in place.
Why is Taumata Arowai being established?
The establishment of Taumata Arowai is part of a broader government programme of reforms to three waters services.
The Government wants all New Zealanders to be able to access drinking water that is safe and complies with internationally-accepted standards.
The Havelock North inquiry showed that there are many significant deficiencies in the provision and regulation of drinking water, and the subsequent Three Waters Review found many deficiencies in the performance and environmental impacts of waste water and storm water systems.
What type of organisation will Taumata Arowai be?
Taumata Arowai will be a standalone Crown agent with a dedicated focus on regulating drinking water, and with an oversight role relating to wastewater and stormwater. A Crown agent is a category of Crown entity with a Minister-appointed board. Crown entities are part of the state sector and are owned by the Crown.
Alongside the independent Board, will be a Maori Advisory Group to advise on Māori interests and knowledge as they relate to Taumata Arowai’s objectives, functions and operating principles. The Group will be appointed by the Minister and will work closely with Taumata Arowai’s Board members, who will all be required to have a broad knowledge of the Treaty, Maori perspectives and tikanga Maori, and will also be required to publicly report on how it has had regard to the advice of the Maori Advisory Group.
What are Taumata Arowai’s statutory objectives?
The Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator Act sets out Taumata Arowai’s statutory objectives. These include:
- Protect and promote safe drinking water and related public health outcomes
- Effectively administer the drinking water regulatory system
- Build and maintain capability among drinking water suppliers and across the wider industry
- Give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, to the extent that Te Mana o te Wai applies to the functions and duties of Taumata Arowai
- Provide oversight ofenvironmental performance of wastewater and stormwater networks
- Promote public understanding of the environmental performance of wastewater and storm-water networks.
What do water suppliers need to know about the transition from the Ministry of Health to Taumata Arowai?
Taumata Arowai and the Ministry of Health will work together to ensure a smooth handover of regulatory administration around July 2021. Until that time drinking water suppliers are required to continue to comply with the Ministry of Health requirements. So it is business as usual until then.
All suppliers must be registered on the drinking water register by a year after the Water Services Bill is passed (ie approx. the second half of 2022).
Supplies serving 500 or more must have a drinking water safety plan that complies with new requirements by end of year one. All other supplies must have a drinking water safety plan that complies with new requirements by end of year five (2026).
How will Taumata Arowai work with councils to ensure communities in their districts or regions have access to safe drinking water?
Taumata Arowai will work closely and collaboratively with councils on developing approaches to legislative requirements under the new regulatory regime.
Will councils be responsible for making sure the output of small rural water schemes in their districts meets the drinking water standards?
No, this will be Taumata Arowai’s role. Councils will however work with their communities to ensure they have access to safe and quality drinking water.
For more information on rural water supplies, please refer to the exposure draft on Taumata Arowai's website.
Why will Taumata Arowai be concerning itself with rural community water supplies when they’ve always been managed locally?
Evidence indicates that some small drinking water suppliers face difficulties in providing safe and acceptable drinking water to their communities. Taumata Arowai’s starting position is that rural communities should not be second-class citizens when it comes to the safety and quality of their drinking water. To this end, Taumata Arowai will work with rural drinking water schemes to ensure they are aware of their obligations to provide safe drinking water, and that they have practical technical advice on how to affordably do so.