decision to establish an independent drinking water regulator is very positive
and will help bring New Zealand’s water services up to international standards,
but the absence of user charges leaves a significant gap in national water
policy which needs to be filled,” says Infrastructure New Zealand CEO Paul
Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Health Minister David Clark announced this morning
that the Government will establish an independent drinking water regulator,
likely in 2020.
“This is one of the
most significant decisions ever for New Zealand’s three waters service
“The current drinking
water system has failed to keep New Zealanders safe, resulting in up to four
deaths in Havelock North and hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders receiving
water which fails to meet basic standards every year.
“That the new regulator
will be independent and focus on areas wider than just drinking water quality
is particularly pleasing. The regulator will also help build capability across
water suppliers, ensure Māori interests in water are recognised and provide
oversight of wastewater and stormwater activities to promote environmental
“Water is critical to
promoting environmental and cultural wellbeing, as well as sustaining the
health and social wellbeing of New Zealanders.
“But it is also
critical to promoting economic wellbeing and there is no clear link in today’s
announcement with the vital role water plays in sustaining the New Zealand
“There are currently
major issues in funding, financing, procuring, maintaining and operating water
services to meet population and economic growth. This reflects the ownership
structure of water provision, which sees 67 often small local councils carry responsibility
for three waters provision, as well as investment arrangements which usually
see water in New Zealand funded via rates, rather than volumetrically through
are being compounded by a perfect storm of increased regulation, climate change
and a backlog of investment starting at $2 billion and likely much higher.
charges are needed to pay for drinking and wastewater infrastructure.
is also required so that publicly-owned expert water delivery companies can
manage debt off council balance sheets, prioritise investment over the long
term and sustain necessary service expertise.
“Priced water needs an
economic regulator to ensure consumers are not paying too much or too little
for an acceptable standard of service. Scottish Water, the regulated public
water provider for Scotland was able to reduce operating costs by 40 per cent
and improve levels of service through better specialisation and good economic
“We call for
the Government to require the new regulator to benchmark key economic and
financial metrics, including the costs of service delivery and long term asset
management and investment programmes. This will provide a stepping stone to
future full economic regulation.
New Zealand fully supports the plan to promote social, environmental and
cultural outcomes for water, but a plan without money is not sustainable.
for the Government to expand its approach to fully account for all four wellbeings
in its water policy,” says Blair.
For further information and comment contact Paul
Blair on 021 902 436