Three waters, and what does it mean for you?

In simple terms, when Central Government and Local Councils talk about three waters, what they are referring to drinking water, stormwater and sewerage supply and removal of within the district.  Central Government have now combined this into one recommendation for the Country called Three Waters Reform.

When did the process start? There are many people that say that the three waters terminology started when the issues at Havelock North happened, yet it was happening a long time before, in fact the situation at Havelock North with the contamination of the water was just a influencer into moving the process along faster.

Who wants what?  If, we are to break down what each organisation wants we end up with something like this:

  • Central Government want to amalgamate all the three water functions into 4 or 5 organisations for the whole country, effectively taking control away from the 78 local councils.  For Northland this means we would probably all fall under one organisation being Auckland-North.  Central Government also have set up a new body to be the regularity authority and change the levels of service that they expect to have at every house in New Zealand.
  • The Auckland Mayor has stated that they want to keep all functions within their Council and keep their watercare servicing Auckland only, as they do not want to take on the debt of the other regions
  • Generally the councillors at the Whangarei District Council feels that their assists were fairly up to standard, and due to the immense investment over the years believe that the ratepayers are getting great value for service.

What has Central Government offered? As with any final design and layout, to get the local councils on board, the government offered dollars to be part of the investigation phase to get co-operation from the Councils.  This initial funding was for the local councils to create asset lists and maintenance required to bring up to standard.

What did the initial (Stage 1) of the program show for Northland? Realistically at this point I would give you a breakdown to how the government rated each Council and what needed to be improved, however at this point due to the government unable to provide the information all I can say is that Whangarei as a Council is not as bad off as other Councils around NZ.

What does the final layout look like?  This is something none of us can predict at the moment, however we do know that Central Government believe that to provide the best outcome for the Country and reduce overheads, and that 4-5 organisations through the whole of the country will produce this.

Central Government are now looking at rolling out Stage 2, this is where all the Councils will need to conform to the final layout process, therefore can a Council opt-out?  At present Councils were given the assertion that they could opt-out of Stage 2, yet this ability could be taken away from the Councils very shortly, as anything different from Central Governments reform gives the impression that it will lessen the value to Central Government… however will it?