The Government’s Water Services Entities Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament today.
Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta said the passage of the Bill was an important step in addressing a fundamental cost of living issue that will affect all New Zealanders for decades to come if left unfixed.
“In order to keep a lid on rate rises and better protect New Zealanders from rising water costs, we must act now to upgrade our national water infrastructure,” Ms Mahuta said.
“Everyone agrees that change is needed to ensure that communities have safe, reliable drinking water at an affordable price. By sticking with the status quo, independent research shows households are facing water costs of up to $9,000 per year and more failures of basic water services.”
She said that by establishing four new publicly-owned water services entities with the size and scale to meet the challenges the nation faces, the legislation will form a strong base for improved, effective, and efficient management of water services and infrastructure.
The legislation clearly directs the non-profit, publically owned water services entities to act in the best interests of present and future households and consumers by:
- delivering water services and infrastructure efficiently and cost effectively;
- protecting public health and the environment;
- supporting and enabling new housing and urban development;
- operating with sound business practices;
- delivering water services that are resilient to the effects of climate change and natural hazards.
The Water Services Entities Bill also provides for the transfer of the existing three waters workforce and expertise from local authorities to the new water services entities.
“Security of employment conditions is an important factor as we transition to the new entities. Ultimately it is these New Zealanders working in their local communities who will ensure the new water services entities succeed in meeting their objectives,” said Ms Mahuta.
“Through the regional representative groups and regional advisory panels, entities and their merit-based boards will be accountable to communities big and small. We want to ensure decision-making input elects local voice and has that layer of representation.
“As we progress with future-proofing our critical infrastructure, we need not look far into the past to understand why protections are so important. The Government remains committed to ensuring our water assets remain in public ownership for generations to come.
“We continue to work alongside industry, water sector professionals, councils, and mana whenua to ensure that the sustainable financing of water infrastructure is affordable and is a solution for current and future generations,” she said.