Update December 2021

Please note: The Water Services Entities Bill has been delayed until after the independent working group reports back to Government. This is scheduled for mid-2022. We will let the public know when submissions can be made.

The Nelson City Council media release can be read here.

The latest information is available on the DIA website, including an exposure draft of the bill.

Three waters reforms to proceed

At the end of October, the Government confirmed it will create four publicly-owned water entities to manage New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater networks (known as the “Three waters”).

This means that the water services currently looked after by 67 local councils will merge into these four entities by July 2024.

Councils throughout New Zealand raised a variety of concerns about these reforms, including Nelson. To address some of these issues, the Government has established three working groups that will look at refining parts of the reform that have caused concern. The focus areas of these working groups are:

  • Representation, governance and accountability
  • Planning Technical Advisory
  • Rural Supplies Technical Advisory

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese has been appointed to be on the governance/accountability working group. More about the working groups can be read here.

A key area that was raised by Nelsonians and Council was the lack of public engagement on the reforms. The Government is due to introduce the Water Services Entities Bill in December and we are waiting to see the Bill and the detail of the timeline for consultation.

The next steps in the process are expected to be as follows:

  • Early December: Water Services Entities Bill introduced to Parliament.
  • Mid December: First reading of the Bill and referral to Select Committee: call for public submissions.
  • Early 2022: Public consultation on Water Services Entities Bill through Select Committee process; National Transition Unit engagement with local authorities begins.
  • June 2022: Report back on Water Services Entities Bill.
  • July 2022: $500 million in ‘better-off’ funding available for councils.
  • July 2024: Four new entities take responsibility for delivering water services; up to $2 billion additional funding available for councils.

Further information:

For more information visit https://www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme.

To read Nelson City Council’s feedback, visit https://shape.nelson.govt.nz/three-waters-reform

The Government's media release in October about the reforms.

Mayor Rachel Reese's response to the Government Anoucement.

Three Waters: The Factsheet

October 2021 (Note: information above superseeds this FAQ).

If you are trying to make an informed decision about Three Waters reform you may have seen there is a lot of misinformation to wade through. Nelson City Council has produced a factsheet that covers some of the most common misconceptions we have seen, and links to external information that can be trusted.

Read more at Our Nelson.

At the 23 September 2021 meeting, Council discussed the Three Waters reforms. A feedback letter was approved by elected members to send to Central Government. This letter can be read here.

Central Government released a media statement on 1 October 2021, thanking councils for their feedback and indicating the next steps in the process.


Prior to the last election, the Government announced its intention to undertake reforms to improve the regulation and supply of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) in New Zealand. The reform process began in July 2020.

This focus on reforms followed the Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water.

For a number of years, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has advocated for change to the delivery of good quality, safe, and affordable water services across New Zealand. LGNZ has asked the Government to partner in a new approach.

The Government has announced the basis of its reform proposal and is seeking feedback from Councils before progressing to the next steps. The reform is being led by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

What's happened so far?

Council agreed to participate in the initial stage of the programme in August 2020. By signing an MOU to start discussions relating to the Three Waters, Council received funding to support operating or capital expenditure in Three Waters service delivery. This also aided economic recovery from the COVID-19 lockdowns, through job creation.

In February 2021, Nelson City Council, along with every other council in New Zealand, provided council specific information on our infrastructure to DIA so our region could be considered under a series of alternative three waters proposals.

This information was used to develop the proposal that was announced by Government on 15 July 2021.

Nelson has been grouped in Entity C. The information released also summarised Nelson's 3 waters operations and the implications of moving to the new entity. (Note: this is not a sale of assets - it is proposed the new entities will remain in public ownership).

Please note: the unplanned interruptions information is not correct for Nelson.

Read Nelson's media release following the announcement.

As a Council, we will be working to make sure that the best possible outcome is achieved for Nelson.

Feedback on the proposal has been developed and approved at the 23 September Council meeting. This will be sent to Central Government by 1 October 2021.

To develop that feedback, we engaged with iwi, our neighbouring councils, and the council grouping that forms Entity C under the proposal. We also held webinars (due to COVID-19 Alert restrictions).

We are at the start of that process, not the end. Any change to how three waters infrastructure is delivered would require the new legislation. If the government decides to proceed, all Nelsonians will be able to make submissions in support or otherwise. Please note that we are not being asked to make a decision now.

What next?

Central Government will let councils know what the next steps are after they have considered the feedback received.

Independent Frequently Asked Questions relating to the reforms have been developed by LGNZ (their latest Q&A can be found here). A significant amount of information is available on their website.

The Department of Internal Affairs has also produced some FAQ's about the reforms.

You can also visit threewaters.govt.nz or the Department of Internal Affairs webpage for more information.

Nelson Dashboard

Nelson dashboard from DIA, noting interruption data is incorrect.

FAQ's relating to the dashboards can be found on the DIA website.