The Government has just issued a press release setting out its agenda for “Local Water Done Well”, which will replace Labour's Three Waters/Affordable Water reforms. 

According to Minister Simeon Brown:

  • The Government will pass a bill to repeal Labour’s divisive and unpopular Three Waters legislation by 23 February 2024 as part of our 100-day plan. This will restore continued local council ownership and control of water services, and responsibility for service delivery.
  • Local Water Done Well will then be implemented by progressing two further bills through Parliament, expected to be passed ahead of the local government elections in October 2025:

  • The first bill will be passed by the middle of 2024 and will set out provisions relating to council service delivery plans and transitional economic regulation. It will also provide streamlined requirements for establishing council- controlled organisations under the Local Government Act 2002, enabling councils to start shifting the delivery of water services into more financially sustainable configurations should they wish to do so.
  • A second bill to provide for the long-term replacement regime will be introduced in December 2024 and passed by the middle of 2025. This will set out provisions relating to long-term requirements for financial sustainability, provide for a complete economic regulation regime, and a new range of structural and financing tools, including a new type of financially independent council-controlled organisation. The second bill will also establish regulatory backstop powers, to be used when required to ensure effective delivery of financially sustainable or safe water services. In addition, it will also make necessary amendments to the water regulator’s legislation to ensure the regulatory framework is fit for purpose and workable for drinking water suppliers.

  • Local Water Done Well recognises the importance of local decision making and flexibility for communities and councils to determine how their water services will be delivered in the future. We will do this while ensuring a strong emphasis on meeting rules for water quality and investment in infrastructure
  • They will also establish a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to contribute specialist and technical expertise to myself and the Department of Internal Affairs as we develop policy and legislation to implement Local Water Done Well. Leading experts in finance, infrastructure and local government will take on key roles as members of the TAG, marking an important step in the implementation of Local Water Done Well. The TAG will be focussed on providing advice and assurance on policy and legislative settings that will enable local councils to appropriately recover costs and access the long-term debt needed to fund the required investment in water infrastructure.