Thursday, May 30, 2024

Dame Karen Poutasi to lead new water board

Major water reform is a step closer with the appointment of the inaugural board of the Taumata Arowai water services regulator today.

Former Director General of Health and respected public health specialist, Dame Karen Poutasi will chair the inaugural board of Crown agency Taumata Arowai. 

“Dame Karen brings considerable experience in governance and management as Director General of Health and Chief Executive of NZQA, as well as her crucial experience as a member of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry panel,” Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

“This tragic water contamination incident was a major driver for legislation, including the establishment of an independent regulator, to assure safer drinking water and more efficient wastewater and stormwater networks for New Zealanders.” 

A medical doctor, Dame Karen is currently serving as Commissioner of Waikato District Health Board, and Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Governance Group.  

Appointed also to the Board are Troy Brockbank, Riki Ellison, Brian Hanna, Dr Virginia Hope, Loretta Lovell, and Anthony Wilson.

“The Board has a highly experienced mix of those representing public health, water infrastructure, and te ao Māori, in addition to considerable governance experience,” the Minister said.

“There is continuity in the kaupapa with previous involvement not just in the Havelock North Inquiry but also with Te Mana o Te Wai/Kāhui Wai Māori and the Three Waters Reform Committee and Taumata Arowai Steering Board.” 

Taumata Arowai will become a legal entity on 1 March and will become fully operational as a regulator with the enactment of the Water Services Bill, currently before Parliament’s Health Select Committee.

“The establishment of Taumata Arowai is one of three pillars of the Government’s Three Waters Reform programme, alongside the regulatory reforms outlined in the Water Services Bill, and the reforms to water delivery services,” said Ms Mahuta.

These reforms are intended to address issues and opportunities that were highlighted by the Government Inquiry into the Havelock North Drinking Water, and in the Government’s Three Waters Review.”

At its introduction, Minister Mahuta outlined how the Bill strikes a balance between incentivising drinking water suppliers to take responsibility for their supplies and giving Taumata Arowai a modern regulatory framework to promote good practice, compliance, and enforcement.

Until the enactment of the Bill, anticipated to pass by mid-2021, the Ministry of Health remains responsible for drinking water regulation.

Board member backgrounds:

Dame Karen Poutasi is currently Commissioner of Waikato DHB, and Chair of the Covid-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Governance Group. Dame Karen has previously served as the Director General of Health and the Chief Executive of NZQA. She was a member of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry panel. 

Troy Brockbank (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) is a civil engineer, who is currently a Senior Environmental Consultant with WSP. He is also a member of the Water New Zealand Board, and Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, the Māori Advisory Group to the Environmental Protection Authority. Troy has a focus on promoting the integration of mātauranga Māori alongside western knowledge and engineering practices. 

Riki Ellison (Ngāi Tahu, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Toa Rangatira) is a consultant specialising in resource management and engagement with Māori, working closely with central government agencies, local government, and iwi. He is a member of Kāhui Wai Māori, the authors of Te Mana o Te Wai, to which Taumata Arowai must give effect. 

Brian Hanna is currently the Independent Chair of the Three Waters Reform Steering Group, a member of the Taumata Arowai Steering Board, and a farmer and business director. He is a former Mayor (9 years) and Councillor (6 years) of the Waitomo District. He has also served as a Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Board Member and Chair of the LGNZ-DIA Water Regulation Advisory Group. 

Dr Virginia Hope is currently a member of Te Kāhui Tātari Ture – Criminal Cases Review Commission, the Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group, and a Medical Director for ESR. She has previously served as the Chair of Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs, and as an elected member of Auckland DHB. For over a decade she served as Medical Officer for Auckland Regional Public Health Services.

Loretta Lovell (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Pahauwera, Ngāti Kahungunu and Whakatōhea) is a lawyer and Environmental Commissioner, who is currently a member of the Development Contribution Commissioner Panel and the Environmental Legal Fund Advisory Panel. She has previously been a legal advisor for several Treaty settlements and iwi organisations.

Anthony Wilson is a highly experienced civil engineer who has previously managed water infrastructure at New Plymouth District Council and Wellington City Council. He is currently a member of the Board of Inquiry: Watercare Waikato River Take Proposal, and Lead – Three Waters Stimulus for Crown Infrastructure Partners Ltd. Mr Wilson also served as a panel member of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry. 

Latest Articles