Three Waters Reform Programme

In July 2020, the Government launched its Three Waters Reform Programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements.

What is being proposed?

The intention is to reform local government’s three waters services into a small number of multi-regional entities with a bottom line of public ownership.

These entities would deliver:

  • drinking water,
  • wastewater,
  • and stormwater services.

What does that mean for us?

The Government has proposed setting up four water service delivery entities. One of these is proposed for the Ngāi Tahu takiwā that would include the Canterbury region. The proposed governance of the entity would recognise Ngāi Tahu’s status as mana whenua.

The reforms are intended to address issues of affordability and debt, compliance with safety and environmental standards, and building resilience to natural hazards and climate change into three waters networks. It is believed that by providing these services at a larger scale, greater efficiencies and capabilities can be achieved.

Currently 67 different councils own and operate most of the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services across New Zealand.

Environment Canterbury has a role in managing land use activities to protect drinking water sources from possible contamination, and monitors wastewater and stormwater compliance.

A new water regulator, Taumata Arowai, will enforce drinking water standards and set performance measures for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure that regional councils will regulate.

Working alongside regional council regulators, such as Environment Canterbury, Taumata Arowai will monitor compliance with environmental regulations at a national level and drive greater focus on the performance of wastewater and stormwater networks.

What are we doing?

The Canterbury Mayoral Forum recently wrote to Minister Mahuta requesting a one-year pause in the reform that would allow sufficient time to consult with communities and enable outcomes from the review on the future of local government to be considered.

Find out more about the request to pause the reform.


2016: Drinking water is contaminated in Havelock North. 
2017: Government inquiry into the Havelock North drinking-water contamination.
2017-19: Government review of Three Waters.
December 2019 – March 2021: Taumata Arowai is set up as a Crown Entity, to regulate drinking water from late 2021.
July 2020: Government announces its Three Waters Reform Programme.
July 2020: The Water Services Bill is introduced, containing details of a new regulatory system. The Bill is expected to be passed into law in late 2021.
Government financial package announced to improve water services delivery and to explore water reform in partnership with councils.
June 2021: The Government releases details outlining the case fore change, and its proposal for four water entities.
August – September 2021: Eight-week engagement period with the Government, to better understand the implications of reform for councils and communities.
2022: Preparation for forming the new water services entities.
2024: New entities expected to start providing water services.

More information