Taupō District Council’s views
Taupō District Council has invested heavily in our three waters infrastructure, and we have nearly $550 million water-related assets.
Our Long Term Plan has a further $211 million allocated to three waters investment. This is over 50% of our total capital expenditure over the next ten years. However, more could be done. Taupō District Council agrees that the way three waters infrastructure investment is funded needs to change; we have concerns about our communities’ ability to fund future improvements.
However, in September 2021 Council reviewed the Government’s reform model and concluded that it is insufficient to manage water services, or ensure these are delivered in a manner that enables our communities to provide for their own growth and development.
Taupō District Council’s September 2021 letter to Hon. Nanaia Mahuta (PDF, 1MB)
Submissions on Three Waters Reform Legislation
Submissions on the Water Services Legislation Bill and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill
Submissions on the Water Services Legislation Bill and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill closed to the public on 12 February 2023.
Council met on Friday 17 February and approved our three waters submissions, as below.
Taupō District Council’s submission on the Water Services Legislation Bill (PDF, 176MB)
Taupō District Council’s submission on the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill (PDF, 262KB)
Water Services Entities Legislation
Taupō District Council submitted, along with 88,000 others, on the Water Services Entities Bill, which is now the Water Services Entities Act. The bill and all submissions can be read on the government portal.
The Water Services Entity Act focuses on the establishment of the entities; how they will be owned, and who will have influence and oversight.
Taupō District Council submitted against the Water Services Entities Bill. You can read a full copy of Taupō District Council's submission on the Water Entities Bill in the pdf document or view a summary of the key points in the drop-down sections below.
Taupō District Council’s full submission on the Water Entities Bill (PDF, 1MB)
In September 2021 we asked the community to share their thoughts on the Three Waters Reform, with 587 people responding to a survey. The survey responses helped to form part of our feedback to the Government on the reform programme.
Find out more about the community feedback received.
- 17 February 2023: Taupō District Council says no to the latest Three Waters legislation
- 7 February 2023: Central government continues to drive forward three waters reform
- 30 August 2022: Taupō District Council representatives speak to Three Waters submissions
- 19 July 2022: Taupō District Council’s strong Three Waters submission to Parliament endorsed
- 5 July 2022: Taupō District Council strongly opposed to Three Waters reforms
- 29 October 2021: Three Waters process hugely flawed
- 28 September 2021: Council urges slower, more considered approach to Three Waters reforms
Key points in our Water Services Entities Bill submission
We agree that reform is necessary
We acknowledge the increasing demands on these water services related to urban growth, pressures from the current funding models based on rates and the drive for better environmental outcomes.
We don’t agree with how the Government has approached these reforms
Councils, as service providers, have been universally tarred with the same brush. There has been little recognition that many councils are excellent managers of the water services they provide, and that substantial community investment has been, and continues to be, made. We can see potential to combine stronger environmental regulation, linked to more sustainable funding models that move away from rates, but are still based on local delivery with all the benefits that provides. This requires courage from legislators to take a breath and allow time to properly explore these options.
The proposed model is overly complex
One of the key challenges any organisation faces is prioritising many conflicting outcomes. At the moment the bill is written as ‘we’ll have it all’, with no consideration as to how trade-offs and prioritisation, and complex decision making will be made. With the complex governance structures, it may be tricky for these groups to agree what the priorities should be. Our concern is that the views from within the new water service entities will override those of the community.
The drive for efficiencies won’t actually be achieved
There appears to be an ideological drive to centralise the planning and delivery of services. This has been justified because it will deliver significant cost efficiencies for consumers and better environmental outcomes for the community. We don’t believe this, mostly because we have on the ground, real experience actually delivering these services. Chasing cost efficiencies through scale and centralisation is likely to lead to more layers of bureaucracy, ineffective decision making and poor visibility across the organisation and then exploitation by contracted service providers
The clear drive to separate the delivery of three waters services from the communities that they are provided for will disenfranchise those communities
Water services are not like power and telecommunications. You can cut ties with one power company and sign up with another. That doesn’t apply to water services and means that they needed to be treated differently to other utility services. These services fundamentally shape the growth and well-being of our communities. We don’t expect a utility organisation based on Hamilton, Tauranga or New Plymouth to understand the needs of our communities several hours away. Their delivery needs to remain with local organisations that know and understand those communities.
The critical link between planning for urban growth and providing three waters infrastructure needs to be better
We can see that the proposed Bill has tried to make the connection, however it needs to explicitly involve territorial authorities. As councils we have legislative responsibilities to enable urban growth so that the residential, industrial and commercial land markets operate efficiently and effectively. We need to connect the demands for different land uses with the provision of infrastructure to enable it to happen. That is a time critical exercise. This Bill, physically and institutionally, separates planning for urban development and the provision of infrastructure. We think that will lead to inefficiencies and poor outcomes. There is nothing in this Bill that suggests the growth needs of our communities will be met in a timely manner.
Our voice and the voices of our communities won’t be heard
We can see the window dressing in this Bill and it provides no comfort at all. There is a regional representative group that we are unlikely to have a seat on, given there are 22 councils and only a maximum of seven seats. There is the potential for regional advisory panels, but there is no certainty they will exist or that we will be part of one. Even if they are established, they are effectively toothless with no decision making or influence on the development of strategic and performance expectations. There are token requirements for engagement, but the message is clear: Entity B is to operate water services as a utility and local government is to be kept at arms-length so it cannot interfere. This strikes at the heart of local democracy. It’s not good enough.
These reforms aren’t connected well with the other areas of reform
We can see that the Government wishes to push through wide ranging changes right across the scope of central government and local government services. Frankly, the Government is trying to do too much too fast and in the wrong order. We are frustrated that the reform of three waters has preceded the wider review of local government.
This infrastructure is critical to growing our communities and delivering well-beings. It has been at the heart of what we do as local government. We are also frustrated that there appears to be little integration between the changes to planning functions under the Resource Management Act 1991 and these reforms.