Thursday, April 25, 2024

Key water reform legislation passed

The Government today passed the next key piece of legislation as part of its proposed public-owned water services reform.

“The Water Services Legislation Bill builds on the Water Services Entities Act that was passed last week, which established the 10 entities,” said Local Government Minister, Kieran McAnulty.

“The Bill we’ve passed today sets out the functions and powers for them, along with what they’re required to do, the tools they need for their work, and arrangements for the changing to the new system.”

The reforms will result in significant savings for ratepayers, Minister McAnulty said.

“Under the reforms that establish the new entities, households are projected to save up to $2,770–$5,400 per year by 2054 on average, depending on which region they are in,” he said

As part of the water service reforms, the Government has now:

  • Established the model for the 10 publicly owned water services entities;
  • Strengthened the regulatory framework for the water services to protect people’s health;
  • Established an independent water services regulator for New Zealand’s water service entities, called Taumata Arowai;
  • Ensured New Zealanders will pay a fair price for water services and receive responsive, high-quality services from their water services entity, by providing for economic regulation of water services by the Commerce Commission.

This work came in response to an inquiry and subsequent review of New Zealand’s water services system, Mr McAnulty said.

“The need for a comprehensive overhaul of New Zealand’s water services was identified over 20 years ago by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. It was again identified in 2010 by the previous Government’s Land and Water Forum, and then by the inquiry into the 2016 Havelock North water contamination incident which killed four New Zealanders.”

“These reforms have been complex and challenging, however growing cost of living pressures and recent extreme weather events have shown that the decision to step up and take action is the right one for New Zealanders.

“We entered into this process in good faith and explored all alternatives put forward. None of them enabled councils to remove debt from their books, which is a crucial element to keeping rates rises low.

“Leaving things as they are quite simply would have meant unaffordable rates bills, and more difficulty in operating the country’s water services.”

Mr McAnulty said the new entities will help optimise funding and resourcing of the water network, helping to ensure that New Zealand’s drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater system remain affordable safe, reliable, and resilient for future generations.

“I want to acknowledge the hard work and passion of everyone who has contributed to the development of these reforms,” he said.

“This has helped to further optimise the legislation, and in turn, New Zealand’s water system for years to come.”

The third and final Bill comprising the water reforms, the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill, also passed its third reading today.

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