Water Industry Reforms

Central Government is reviewing how to improve the regulation and supply of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) in New Zealand. This is to give New Zealanders confidence that drinking water is safe to use, sources of drinking water are adequately protected, and wastewater and stormwater are managed in environmentally sustainable ways.

The review, which began in 2017, has already delivered new legislation and the creation of Taumata Arowai, a new Water Services Regulator, to oversee and enforce a new drinking water regulatory framework, with additional oversight of wastewater and stormwater networks.

Most three waters assets and services are owned and delivered by local councils.

While addressing the regulatory issues, both central and local government have identified under-investment in three waters infrastructure in parts of the country and persistent affordability issues for ratepayers, as well as the need for additional investment to meet improvements in freshwater outcomes and increase resilience to climate change and natural hazards.

In July 2020, Government announced a funding package to local authorities to maintain and improve three waters infrastructure, and to support reform of local government water services delivery arrangements. The Government indicated that its starting intention is public multi-regional models for water service delivery to realise the benefits of scale for communities and reflect neighbouring catchments and communities of interest. There is a preference that entities will be in shared ownership of local authorities.

To be eligible for this funding, councils must take part in the initial stage of the Reforms programme. This does not commit councils to participating in further phases of the programme, or to establishing new entities or transferring assets. It is a commitment to work together with Government and regional partners to explore the local impacts of a proposal to amalgamate water assets and services, and what those changes would mean for ratepayers.

Read more at www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme


How we manage the three waters

In the Mackenzie District, Council is responsible for:

  • public drinking water supplies
  • wastewater collection, treatment and disposal in urban areas
  • managing our stormwater network.

This is no small task!

We're responsible for supplying safe water to over 3,000 properties through 373 kilometres of pipe in our district. We operate four urban schemes (Twizel, Tekapo, Fairlie and Burkes Pass), the Allandale rural scheme and the Pukaki Airport supply. We have 533 hydrants for firefighting water supply. We also test and treat hundreds of thousands of litres of water a day to make sure it's safe to drink.

We provide wastewater collection, treatment and disposal for the residents and businesses of communities in Twizel, Tekapo and Fairlie. We own and maintain more than 2,700 connections and more than 90 kilometres of sewers and 6 pump stations.

Our stormwater pipe network is more than 22 kilometres long, and has over 342 maintenance access points. We provide a stormwater system to manage water run-off from our district's urban catchments (22,851m in area) while protecting the receiving environment, ensuring water quality and reducing risks to human life, health and property from flooding. We carry out a range of activities on a daily basis to keep our network in good condition.

What amalgamation would mean for the Mackenzie District

The Three Waters reform programme has the potential to significantly change the way critical water infrastructure and services are delivered in our district.

In the Mackenzie District, we have invested heavily in our water management, security and infrastructure on behalf of, and for the benefit of, our community and the environment.

Our water-related assets together have a value of $51 million, which is 34 per cent of Council's total assets (excluding land under roads).

A further $11.3 million is allocated in this year's annual plan to support drinking water safety upgrades, improve our wastewater treatment infrastructure and address flood risks in our district.

Because of this investment, we are well positioned for the future. A recently released Auditor-General's report, Managing the supply of and demand for drinking water, shows that the Mackenzie District Council is setting a good example in our future-focused approach to supplying drinking water.

Amalgamation could remove our responsibility for maintaining critical waters infrastructure and services. For example, Council would no longer be responsible for delivering drinking water supplies to households. It may also mean changes to how much our ratepayers pay for water and wastewater services, and who they pay for these services, in the future.

What happens next

Councillors agreed that Mackenzie District Council will participate in the initial stage of the programme. This agreement gives us a seat at the table, together with Government and regional partners, to explore the local impacts of the Three Water Services proposal.

In exchange for our participation, we have been granted $5.12 million to further strengthen water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure and services across the district. This needs to be spent by March 2022.

Any decision to participate further in the Three Waters Services Reform programme will be subject to a Council decision. Working with our community is very important to us, and we will not make any significant decisions about our water, wastewater and stormwater assets and the provision of these services without talking to our community first.

$5.12m Initial Funding

Please note the following:

  • The MOU (which allowed Council to access the funds) is non-binding, and simply allows Council to participate in discussions with government about the proposed reforms
  • Government can push the reform process forward regardless of the views of Mackenzie District Council
  • The funding cannot be put towards projects which have already been signaled and budgeted for as part of Council's Long Term Plan (10 year plan)
  • There will be further tranches of funding available in the next year or two - we don't know what the criteria will be to access these funds at this point in time
  • Mackenzie District Council will continue to lobby government for a way forward that provide the best outcomes for residents and ratepayers in the Mackenzie District

Click below to download a document detailing how Mackenzie District Council plans to invest the initial tranch of funding received from central government.

MDC Project List - Initial 3 Waters Funding



Further Information

Three Water Reform Programme Infographic

Three Waters Reform - Department of Internal Affairs

Government announcement of funding (including Q&A)




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