Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Final piece of water Bill puzzle introduced to Parliament

The final piece of legislation for the Government’s revamped affordable water reforms was introduced to the House today.

The Water Services Amendment Bill changes the Water Services Entities Act 2022 to replace four water services entities with 10.

“We listened to communities. As a result, having 10 entities rather than four means that every council, and therefore every community, is represented on the entities’ regional groups,” said Local Government Minister, Kieran McAnulty.

“The cost of fixing our broken water infrastructure is estimated at $185 billion over the next 30 years. Without these changes, New Zealanders would see unaffordable increases to their rates to fund the investment needed.”

The Minister said that moving from 67 different water services providers to just 10 means the new entities will have the increased size necessary to improve access to funding and management of water services to secure the benefits of reform for New Zealanders including affordability.

“For example, we estimate the average water services charge for Waikato by 2054 without reform would be $7,660 per household. Under the 10-entity reform scenario we estimate it would be between $2,760 and $3,090,” he said.

“Every ratepayer will be economically better off because of these changes versus doing nothing, keeping more money in the pockets of families.

“Other important changes in the Bill are a staggered and flexible approach to when the new entities go live, community priority statements to give a voice to local people with an interest in water bodies within the entity area and a process to enable voluntary mergers of the entities.

“The Bill gives councils a clear runway so that they can keep providing water services during the extended period for establishing the new entities, including detailed arrangements to deal with long-term planning, reporting, and rate setting over this period and ensure a smooth transition to the new system.

“I anticipate the Bill will receive its first reading and be referred to select committee later this month. Councils and other interested parties will have the chance to have their say on the changes,” Mr McAnulty said.

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