Frequently asked questions

In July 2020, Central Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme – a three-year programme to reform Local Government three waters (drinking, waste water and stormwater) service delivery arrangements.

The reform programme follows a Central Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water. The enquiry was set up following a campylobacter outbreak in 2016 where 5500 people became ill and four people are thought to have died from associated causes.

Central Government has established Taumata Arowai, which will become the New Zealand's drinking water regulator, when the Water Services Bill is passed later this year (2021). The Bill contains all of the details of the new drinking-water regulations, the requirements for protecting freshwater supplies, and Taumata Arowai's waste water and storm water functions.

Central Government will establish four publicly-owned entities to manage drinking water, waste water and storm water infrastructure across New Zealand. Currently 67 different councils own and operate the majority of the drinking water, waste water and stormwater services across Aotearoa.

Rangitīkei District will be part of ‘Entity B’, which takes in 22 local authorities (Thames-Coromandel, Hamilton, Hauraki, Matamata-Piako, Waikato, Waipa, Waitomo, South Waikato, Stratford, Taupō, Tauranga, Western Bay of Plenty, Ōpōtiki, Kawerau, Rotorua Lakes, New Plymouth, Ōtorohanga, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu, South Taranaki and Whanganui).

Public consultation on the reform will occur through the creation of an Act of Parliament, the process is managed and run by Central Government.

Information provided by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ)

Frequently asked questions [PDF]

Key Facts and Figures [PDF]

If you have any further questions about Three Waters Reform, please email

Currently, New Zealand's drinking water, waste water and storm water (the 'three waters') services are mostly provided by 67 local councils, including Rangitīkei District Council.

However, councils are facing several challenges, including:

  • large debt and affordability issues
  • meeting safety standards and environmental expectations
  • building resilience to natural hazards and climate change
  • supporting the growth of their communities.

A report by the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) estimates that New Zealand will need to invest between $120 billion to $185 billion in our three waters infrastructure over the next 30 years to meet drinking water and environmental standards and provide for future population growth. The combined forecast spend in all New Zealand councils' latest long-term budgets is about $81 billion.

There are also increasing concerns about the quality of New Zealand's drinking water and the safety of the infrastructure that delivers it.

Central Government’s proposal would mean a significant change to the delivery of water services. Councils would shift its focus from delivery to kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of water services. Requirements on local authorities to ensure safe drinking water for private and community supplies would transfer to new entities.

For most councils, removing water-related debt could improve their balance sheet, this would be the case for Rangitīkei District Council. It could potentially create more opportunities for the Council to focus on delivering well-being to their communities.

Central Government has been working with Councils to collate the necessary data to build a clear understanding of three water services in their districts and forecast what the changes will mean for their communities.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) consultant analysis, here in Rangitīkei the average household cost per annum for the Financial Year 2021 (FY2021) is $1,030. It is anticipated that by 2051 without reform, this will grow to $8,690 and with reform to $1,220, in today's terms. There are also positive implications for Growth Domestic Profit (GDP) and employment growth in the district.

For more information about what these changes might mean for your household’s three waters service costs, visit Te Tari Taiwhenua | Internal Affairs local dashboard.

(Note: To show the Rangitīkei District Council dashboard, please select the '>' arrow shown at the bottom of the screen until you reach page 5, at the top of the screen, select the down arrow to scroll through and select 'Rangitīkei District Council', follow the same process on page 6).

Central Government's primary objective of the Three Waters Reform Programme is to provide a more efficient and consistent way of delivering three waters services across Aotearoa.

It is believed that greater efficiencies and capabilities can be achieved by councils and communities joining together to provide these services at a larger scale.

Other specific objectives of the Three Waters Reform Programme are (summarised):

  • Safe and reliable drinking water: For all New Zealanders and visitors. In 2016, thousands of people were infected in Havelock North by drinking water from contaminated bores. Four people died, and others were left permanently disabled.
  • Affordable water services in the future: In some parts of the country, it is becoming increasingly unaffordable for councils to provide safe and reliable three waters services.
  • Climate change: Increasing flooding events and sea-level rise will put pressure on three waters infrastructure and services. Central Government is concerned about the ability of councils to meet this challenge without reform.
  • The same level of service for everyone: With 67 councils providing three waters services across the country, some communities receive a different level of service to others. The reform aims to provide a more consistent level of service for New Zealanders.
  • Proper investment in infrastructure: Through stage one of the reform process, Central Government concluded there is ongoing under investment in three waters infrastructure in parts of the country. There may be high costs over the next 30 years as infrastructure is brought up to standard. These costs may be too much for some councils to carry alone.
  • All water services meeting new requirements: With a new national water regulator, Taumata Arowai, and a new economic regulator is being established, the Central Government is concerned councils may not meet future requirements without reform.

A fundamental building block of the reform will be a partnership with tangata whenua, following the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The reform is also aimed at delivering Te Mana o te Wai: Essential Freshwater, a set of principles co-designed with iwi/Māori to lift the water quality of our streams, rivers and lakes.

A partnership brings the opportunity to incorporate the value of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) alongside western systems to facilitate the best outcomes for New Zealand communities. The reform provides an opportunity to start this process side-by-side.

We recognise and support the need for iwi/Māori to work alongside the council to ensure that any reform doesn’t adversely impact existing rights and interests. We also see value in the perspective tangata whenua can offer as the reforms unfold.

Locally, we are working with Te Roopuu Ahi Kaa Komiti (the representative group for our iwi and hapū here in Rangitīkei).