Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Parliament awash with water Bills

The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill and Water Services Legislation Bill were introduced to Parliament today, following the passage of the Water Services Entities Act.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister, David Clark said the Bills will ensure the future water infrastructure system provides greater service quality and consumer rights protection to all New Zealanders. 

“The Government has listened closely to the feedback from councils and wider communities,” Mr Clark said.

“We have taken on board the desire for greater transparency by the water service entities and better water user representation by expanding the Consumer Advocacy Council’s remit so it can advocate on behalf of water services consumers.”

He said the Commerce Commission will oversee protections for New Zealanders, through a newly established Water Services Commissioner who will focus on ensuring the transparency of water entities’ operations. 

“Consumers should also receive timely responses when they contact a water service entity with a query or complaint, clear communication about planned or unplanned network outages, and be able to resolve any disputes quickly.”

The Water Services Entities Act passed earlier today established four publicly-owned water service entities and set out their representation, governance and accountability arrangements, some powers for the transition period and arrangements about employment provisions.

“The Water Services Legislation Bill introduced today builds on the first Act. It sets out detailed functions and powers of the new entities, what they are required to do, the tools they need for their work and arrangements for the transition to the new system,” said Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta.

“It establishes relationships between entities and consumers to enable greater transparency around pricing and charging, and sets out protection measures for vulnerable consumers including an extension of the current rates rebates scheme to cover water charges.

“This is a cost of living issue. Households cannot afford to see their water bills and rates spiral out of control. Evidence shows this will happen without reform. Keeping a lid on rates rises is imperative, as households, businesses, communities and councils around the country face cost of living challenges.

“These Bills set out a detailed framework for water reform developed by decades of discussions and more than two years of concentrated work by Government, local government, mana whenua and industry partners.”

The Bills will shortly undergo their first reading debates in Parliament and will then be subject to a select committee process where further public submissions will be welcomed.

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