Below is a press release from Minister for Infrastructure Grant Robertson and Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta on the Government's Three Waters plans.
Council ownership of waters entities confirmed
The Government has confirmed local council ownership and strengthened local voice by accepting the vast majority of the Three Waters Working Group recommendations on representation, governance and accountability, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today.
“Fundamentally these reforms are about delivering clean and safe drinking water at an affordable price for New Zealanders. Without reform, households are facing water costs of up to $9,000 per year, or the prospect of services that fail to meet their needs,” Grant Robertson said.
“Everyone accepts the need for change. You only have to look at the number of burst pipes, boil water notices and the volume of sewerage spewing into our harbours to see we can’t carry on as we are and that our water infrastructure is crumbling.
“At the heart of councils’ concerns have been the issues of ownership and voice, By accepting the majority of the recommendations made by the independent Working Group on Representation, including a shareholding plan, we have listened to these concerns and modified our proposals accordingly.
“With the key issues now addressed we cannot afford to wait any longer. The costs to communities and ratepayers are just too big to ignore and we need to get on with fixing it,” Grant Robertson said.
“The Working Group was tasked with addressing the issues of most concern to the sector and Cabinet has agreed to the majority of their recommendations that ensure councils, iwi and communities have a strong voice in the new entities,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
“I acknowledge the anxiety around change, but ratepayers and local communities cannot keep paying more and more for services that have been underinvested in for too long, and now put their health at risk.
“That’s why the Government has extensively engaged with local government, iwi and hapū, the water industry for more than four years to understand the case for change and assess the best option for reform.
“This is the best option to deliver the clean, safe and affordable drinking water New Zealanders deserve while also retaining community ownership and protecting against future privatisation.
“We are now at a point where the case for change is well made and the policy has been robustly tested and improved. We have listened to concerns and now is time to move forward with these reforms,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
In line with the Working Group’s recommendations the Government will:
• provide for a public shareholding structure that makes community ownership clear, with shares allocated to councils reflective of the size of their communities (one share per 50,000 people);
• further strengthen and clarify the role of the Regional Representative Group; with joint oversight from local councils and mana whenua to ensure community voice and provide tighter accountability from each water services entity board;
• maintain that board members are to be appointed based on skills and competency;
• strengthen connections to smaller communities including through local sub-committees feeding into the Regional Representative Group, to ensure all communities’ voices are considered as part of investment prioritisation; and
• recognise and embrace Te Mana o te Wai – the health and wellbeing of our waterways and waterbodies – as a korowai, or principle, that applies across the water services framework.
“The governance arrangement in the Regional Representative Group is not something that is new. Many councils already have co-governance arrangements in place, and acknowledge the importance and benefit of such arrangements,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
“For example the Waikato River Authority set up by the previous Government, established fifty-fifty co-governance around the Waikato River and is a good working model of shared decision making to improve the health of the river.
“The Regional Representative Group is not about ownership but rather ensuring community inclusion and voices are heard, securing a kaitiaki or guardianship role for the protection of our environment, and maintaining the focus on the long-term planning required for national infrastructure. It’s a model that makes sense and is already working well.
“Without the changes we are making all the evidence points to a legacy of broken pipes, outdated sewage plants, and potential repeats of the tragic Havelock North gastroenteritis outbreak that killed four people and made thousands sick. This should not be the case in a first-world country,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
How does the governance structure work for the Water Services Entities?
The Regional Representative Group (RRG) will represent the views of councils and mana whenua in the service area of the entity, and will set expectations and approve the strategic direction of the entity, but will not be involved in making operational decisions.
The Board will be appointed by the RRG, and is responsible for the day-to-day management and operations of the Water Service Entity.
The Regional Representative Group is responsible for governance. It will:
- Set performance expectations for the Water Services Entity in their area.
- Approve the strategy developed by the Board to give effect to those expectations.
·They are responsible for appointing, monitoring and, if necessary, removing entity board members on a skills and competency basis.
- Monitor board performance – they would do this by receiving and reviewing, for example, quarterly and annual reports against the Statement of Intent.
- Hold the Board to account for delivery of services on behalf of the communities they serve – for example, by meeting with the Board to ask questions about performance.
There's more detail in the attachments below.
And below is a press release from Local Government New Zealand
LGNZ welcomes momentum on water reform
LGNZ President Stuart Crosby says the Government’s decisions on the Three Waters Governance Working Group recommendations provide much-needed momentum, as well as certainty for ratepayers.
“Councils face big future bills for water services given the new regulator, the unknown condition of many pipes and the impact of climate change. Without reform, ratepayers will be hit in the pocket.
“Everyone in the local government sector is advocating for change to our three waters system, even those opposed to the Government’s model. No one thinks the status quo is sustainable.
“LGNZ is encouraged to see the Minister support the Working Group’s recommendations around making public ownership crystal clear, through a shareholding for councils. We also support the changes to strengthen communities’ and councils’ voices. These changes address key concerns and we’ve pushed hard for them.
“Without reform, many councils will struggle to meet new water standards, which will require significant investment over time. They will face prosecution by the new water regulator if they’re not meeting standards.
“All New Zealanders deserve safe drinking water – and our environment deserves first-world waste and stormwater services. That means fundamental change to how water services are funded and delivered – not in 10 or 20 years’ time but now.
“Our communities need certainty. They can’t afford the huge costs that come with doing nothing and maintaining the status quo. “LGNZ supports the Governance Working Group’s recommendations because they strengthen the model. Clarifying ownership protects against privatisation; and community connection is enhanced by adding subgroups to the Regional Representative Groups.
“Councils will play a critical role in three waters after reform. They will go from being involved in the operational delivery to being responsible for planning for growth and resilience, being the voice of their communities, and monitoring performance.”