Three Waters Policy

It is critical that New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water and high-quality infrastructure for storm and wastewater. 

Currently the system is not up to scratch, but the Government’s proposed reforms simply miss the mark. Shifting water assets from one government body to another is a recipe for more bureaucracy and less local input, not an enduring solution to upgrade water infrastructure in New Zealand.

ACT’s plan will better balance community control of water assets alongside a plan for levelling up the necessary infrastructure to ensure safety and efficient water allocation.

 

ACT’s Water Infrastructure Plan

  • ACT would provide for councils to enter into voluntary “shared services” agreements, gaining the benefits of scale, while retaining local ownership and control.
  • ACT would establish long term 30-year Central Government-Local Government Partnership agreements to plan water infrastructure upgrades tailored to specific regions.
  • ACT would establish Public-Private Partnerships (through our proposed NationBuilding Agency) to attract investment from financial entities such as KiwiSaver funds, ACC, iwi investment funds, etc.
  • ACT would expand the exemption from domestic supply for a single dwelling to also include all small water suppliers supplying fewer than 30 endpoint users.

The problem with the Government’s plan

The Labour Government has proposed moving control of water assets away from local communities and into centralised bodies. ACT has engaged constructively through the initial process established by the Government but we are unconvinced that the Government’s centralised model which would see each community’s water system moved into four regional water organisations will result in better outcomes.

Harming smaller initiatives

  • The proposals will harm small private schemes by imposing a costly regime on operators that do not require this level of regulation and compliance, including: rural water schemes, holiday home communities, common bore sharing, marae and more.
  • The risk is that these operations will simply choose to shut down due to the unnecessary burdens being placed on them.
  • ACT would expand the exemption from domestic supply for a single dwelling to also include all small water suppliers supplying fewer than 30 endpoint users.

Shutting down local voices

  • Centralising water infrastructure is essentially an asset grab from central government. This is why councils are rightly expressing concerns about the proposals. Community voices are important and need to be protected in how local infrastructure and water is managed.
  • The four proposed water service companies would all be based in major cities with board members jointly appointed by council and iwi representatives. There is no guarantee of representation from the users of the water, especially from rural or provincial communities.
  • However, we do recognise that water infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain. Some smaller councils lack the critical mass and rating base to support a professional workforce to service their assets in the 21st century. Even in our larger cities, a history of under-investment and council debt limits, has resulted in leaking pipes, sewage overflows and resistance to consenting additional land for housing.
  • ACT believes we can improve on the current system but we don’t need to do so through state-mandated centralisation.
  • ACT would provide for councils to enter into voluntary “shared services” agreements, gaining the benefits of scale, while retaining local ownership and control.
  • ACT would establish long term 30-year Central Government-Local Government Partnership agreements to plan water infrastructure upgrades tailored to specific regions.
  • ACT would establish Public-Private Partnerships (through our proposed NationBuilding Agency) to attract investment from financial entities such as KiwiSaver funds, ACC, iwi investment funds, etc