Three Waters Reform

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

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How water reforms impact our Council

The Three Water Reforms are mandatory now for Councils. There are four entities that are being formed that will cover the country that will oversee water services. Our area will be part of Entity B.

There’s now a transitional process happening so that the entities will be managing Three Waters by 2024.

In April 2022, the Minister for Local Government announced Councils can now access the Three Waters Reform Better Off support package as part of that transitional process.

The funding provides an opportunity to fast-track projects that might not otherwise have got off the ground – or that couldn’t previously progress due to lack of funding. Councils can create and accelerate projects that build resilience to climate change and other natural hazards, deliver infrastructure that supports housing development, or enhance local placemaking and community wellbeing.

The first $500m of the $2 billion total Better Off package was available from 1 July 2022, with applications open until 30 September.

Our Council is expected to receive approximately $16 million. An internal staff working party has been set up to assess and plan on what it may be used for. 

We will keep you up-to-date with the progress of our application with updates on this page, our Facebook page, and through our e-newsletter. 

The Shareholding Allocation Model

The Government has also announced that Councils will receive non-financial shares in the new entities, with each Council getting one share per 50,000 people in its district, rounded up so that each Council has at least one share.

Under this plan, our district, with a permanent resident population of approximately 33,000, would have one share in Entity B, which covers much of the central North Island. This is the same share as little Kawerau, with a population of 7,670. Districts such as Thames-Coromandel and Queenstown Lakes are severely under-represented in the government’s shareholding scheme for the new water service entities and lose out in the financial support package – both of which are based on normally-resident population.

As popular visitor destinations, the mayors of Thames-Coromandel and Queenstown-Lakes, both went public in 2022 to say using resident population puts both their districts at a disadvantage.

Our population can double on a long weekend and goes up 400 per cent over the summer. All of these people must be supplied with clean water and wastewater services. We have nine wastewater treatment plants and nine drinking water plants – Hamilton has one of each. 

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Our Council’s action on water reforms   

We are one of 33 Councils who have signed up as a member of Communities 4 Local Democracy, He hapori mo te Manapori”.

This is a local Government action group that was formed to respond to communities’ serious concerns about the Government’s mandated Three Waters Reform model and the implications of this proposed legislation. Communities 4 Local Democracy” says it’s committed to working with Central Government so all New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water and that all communities continue to have a say on the use of assets purchased on their behalf, using ratepayers' funds.

This decision was made at a special Council meeting on 6 April 2022, as part of our position on the government’s Three Water Reforms. The resolution was five passed five votes to four.

Becoming a member of this action group is non-binding and our Council can opt to withdraw as a member anytime.

Currently there are 32 other Councils affiliated.

You can read the full report here.

Meanwhile, the Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability of the new Water Services Entities reported back to the Minister for Local Government with 47 recommendations, which you can read here.

The Government has signaled its bottom lines are:

  • the entities remain in public ownership, 
  • the entities have balance sheet separation from their local authority owners, 
  • good governance, 
  • and that any new model should protect/promote iwi/Māori rights and interest.

In February 2023, our Council put in submissions to the:


The reforms had initially been progressed through a voluntary partnership-based approach, and in 2020, our Council agreed to opt into the early stages of the reform package. This did not commit our Council to further reform or to transfer of assets. 

Our Councillors have since been listening closely to our communities, and the very clear message they’re getting is that we must hold the line on our water infrastructure staying in our local ownership. 

Our Council relayed our communities’ key positions through a formal feedback process in October 2020. Shortly afterward, the Government announced the reforms would be forced through. 

Our Council continues to listen to community opinion and input on the next stage of reform, in order to advocate strongly on behalf of our communities, and to ensure we retain whatever local powers are possible. 

Through the next stage of the reform programme, our Council intends to fight for:   

  • Water and water-related infrastructure assets to remain in local ownership

  • Local voices to have a place in planning and service delivery

  • Assessments about our district to be made on rateable household property numbers, rather than usually resident population

  • Local determination of the entity boundary that is most appropriate for our district, based on community feedback

Our Council signed up to the first phase in August 2020, which came at no commitment to opt in or out to further phases and has allowed our Council to be part of the discussions regarding this reform. It also allowed our Council to receive nearly $5M in funding, which has been allocated to the Whitianga Water Meter Project. This does not constitute our Council's support of the reform proposals.

If you have questions regarding this reform, feel free to contact our Council at

At the Local Government NZ (LGNZ) Conference in mid-July 2021, the Government announced a $2.5 billion package for Councils as part of its Three Waters Reform.

The package has three financial components:

  1. Support for local Government to invest in communities’ wellbeing. This part of the investment totals $2 billion, with $500 million being available from 1 July 2022. It will be allocated between Councils, according to a nationally consistent formula, reflecting population (75 per cent), deprivation (20 per cent) and land area (5 per cent).
  2. Targeted support to ensure no Councils are financially worse off as a result of transferring their three waters assets. This is designed to protect Councils from any negative financial consequences of the asset transfer.
  3. Cover of reasonable transition costs. This is intended to make sure Councils' service delivery (including water services) during the transition, isn’t compromised by the work needed to make the transition happen. It is also noted that staff who work primarily on water will be guaranteed a role at the new water service entities 
Where you can find more information on the reform

You can see the overview of the programme here

You can also read more information on the reform programme on the DIA and LGNZ websites.