Thursday, July 18, 2024

Consumer protection Bill drops for new water reforms

Parliament has tonight passed the final phase of reforms for New Zealand’s new water services management.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister, Duncan Webb said the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill makes sure that access to clean water “won’t cost people an arm and a leg”.

“In 2016, 5500 people got sick and four people died when Havelock North’s unchlorinated water supply was contaminated with Campylobacter,” said Minister Webb.

“This is totally unacceptable. Access to safe drinking water is a basic health issue and human right, and this Government has made sure we’ve got a system that will deliver that.

“We’ve already passed legislation setting up 10 public entities to manage the water services currently supplied by 67 local councils.”

Earlier today, Parliament passed another bill, the Water Services Legislation Bill, which sets out the functions and powers those entities will operate under.

“And tonight we passed a law that puts in place the protections consumers need when dealing with large water suppliers,” Dr Webb said.

The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill requires water suppliers to provide water at a cost and level of service consumers expect.

“It also requires them to publicly disclose their performance, and sets standards for things like being transparent about how water services are charged for, clear communication about water network problems, and the way in which consumers should be treated when they have a query or complaint,” Minister Webb said.

The Minister said a Water Services Commissioner will be appointed within the Commerce Commission to oversee the system.

“The scope of the Consumer Advocacy Council will also be broadened so that it can advocate on behalf of water services consumers, and an independent dispute resolution service will be established to resolve disputes between consumers and water suppliers,” he said.

  • More information the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill is available here.
  • The Water Services Review ran in parallel to the Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water. The Water Services Reform Programme started in 2020. More information is available here.

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