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Three Waters Reform

A major government reform of the ‘three waters’ (drinking water, stormwater and wastewater) is underway and right now, we’re working through understanding the implications for our community.

What's our position? What does this mean? FAQs Useful Links

What’s our position so far?

We fully support the government’s intention to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to safe, clean water and that our environment is protected and regenerated as a priority.  But it’s also vital we have a clear understanding of whether the proposed approach is the right thing for our district. 

The Mayors and Chairs of Otago Southland have written to the Minister of Local Government to formally request a pause to the current three waters reform process to allow Councils the time to engage with their communities.

What does this mean for us?

The Central Government has launched a national campaign that presents the reform in a very positive light, and there are likely to be lots of positives at a national level, but at the moment we don’t know the specifics of what the proposal means for our district and its communities.

It’s likely that centralisation would provide some long-term financial benefits for households, but that’s only if the new entity achieves the ambitious efficiencies it sets out to.

The Review of WICS Data - Morrison Low is an independent review outlining financial analysis of the proposed three waters reform.

Data that the government has put out suggests the cost savings per household will be approximately $7,000 by 2051. But our assessment shows the true cost savings to be between $500 and $1,500 depending on the efficiencies achieved.

There will be some funding available to support councils in the transition to the new water entities, but this has been determined on normally resident population. It doesn’t allow for visitor numbers or holiday-home owners. This is something we will be raising with the Government in our response.

It is expected that the reform will have significant consequences for QLDC’s balance sheet and our ability to raise finance and manage debt. There will also be extremely limited local representation in the governance of the proposed water entity.

We do know that staff who work primarily on water will be guaranteed a role at the new water service entities. This role will retain key features of their current role including salary, terms and critically – location.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Across the country, three waters is managed by many public and private schemes, with varying levels of quality and compliance.

    The proposal from Central Government is to create four new water entities.

    This would see all council-run drinking water, wastewater and stormwater transfer from local councils, to one of the four water entities.

    There would be one entity to cover most of the South Island and we don’t know where that entity will be based, logically it could be a big metro like Christchurch or Dunedin.

    These entities will take full control of the three waters assets, debt, prices and services in place of council.

    A new water regulator has been set up, which we think is positive – Taumata Arowai.

  • We have an eight-week period, until 1 October, to consider the proposal.

    From there, the Government will consider next steps, including the process and revised timing for decision-making.

    While we don’t have enough detail to formally consult the community, we’re keen to get a feel for the ‘mood of the district’ on this issue. 

    There’s an online survey at to gather thoughts and impressions from the community to help shape our thinking. We’ll also be contacting key local community groups to provide advice.


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