What has happened so far?
When Central Government announced the Three Waters Reform in 2020, councils were asked to participate in tranche one of the reform, which involved signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Crown.
All councils including Waitomo District Council signed an MoU, and as a result WDC received Government funding of $3.5 million to support water supply and wastewater projects in the district.
The MoU also meant Council accepted the reform’s principles and objectives and agreed to work with Government and neighbouring Councils to consider regional approaches, assess the programme and decide if they will be involved in the future.
A Request for Information (RfI) process was also required through the MoU.
The RfI collected the information necessary to undertake detailed analysis to support advice on the options for reform to the Steering Committee, local government elected members and Ministers over the coming months.
The information gathered through this RfI is an important part of the Reform Programme.
This analysis will allow Central Government to better understand the current state of the three waters related asset base and condition of the assets, the operating environment, commercial and financial arrangements and the forecast investment plans. It will also help to identify the potential impacts of reform on the local government sector relative to the status quo.
How can I find out more information?
You can visit the DIA Three Waters website at https://www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme
At a Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference on 15 July, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a $2.5 billion package to ensure local councils are "no worse off”.
The package proposes that Waitomo District Council would receive just over $14m, subject to first satisfying a range of conditions.
The $2.5 billion is to support the sector through the transition to the new water services delivery system, and to position the sector for the future. This package will ensure that local authorities are supported
through the transition process, the financial impacts of reform are managed and importantly, all councils and communities will transition to the new system for delivering three waters services in a
better position than where they are now.
The support package consists of two components: $2 billion to ensure councils are "better off" from the restructure, and a $500 million "no worse off" element, to address the financial impact of transferring water assets to the new entities.
The Government says the funding would support the Three Waters Reform, and focus on other local wellbeing outcomes associated with climate change and resilience, housing and urban design and planning, and community wellbeing.
Click here to read more information about the financial support package.
Visit our News Page to read about Council's response to the support package
On 30 June, the Government announced it intends transferring management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater from 67 independent councils to four large publicly-owned entities which would be governed by an independent board.
There will be Regional Representative groups for each entity with local authorities and mana whenua from the region each nominating about half of up to 10-12 representatives who will serve limited terms. These representatives will provide the entity Board with a statement of expectations – as a shareholder would do – and will vote on the independent selection panel membership. The region’s water entity Board of up to 10 members will be appointed by this independent selection panel. Consumer forums will also be established for each entity with a role in consumer protection and pricing influence with the Board obligated to consult.
Councils in each entity’s region will be the legislated owners on behalf of their communities, although not ‘shareholders’ and will not derive dividends from that ownership status.
Waitomo District Council would be part of a central North Island entity involving 22 councils in the greater Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and parts of Manawatu-Whanganui.
Boundaries will be confirmed in September 2021, following further discussion with councils and iwi. The change will not come into place until 2024 and councils will continue to manage its three waters assets until then.
Privatisation of any part of a water entity may only occur after the Representative Board agrees by 75% majority and a regional citizens referendum subsequently agrees by 75% vote. These ownership and governance structures have been reviewed by credit agencies who have supported them as being able suitable for the debt finance arrangements that will be necessary to fund the future investment programme.
Click here for more information on the proposed boundaries.
A council-specific dashboard was also released, which contained an error. Regrettably, the public information as publicised says that WDC has zero debt for the three waters infrastructure. The fact is that Council has a $26m debt.
Read about Council's response to the error.