Three Waters reforms: Nanaia Mahuta and Grant Robertson announce next steps

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Finance Minister Grant Robertson will announce the next steps in the Government’s Three Waters reforms this morning.

This will include a response to the recommendations of a working group the government had commissioned to review some of the most controversial aspects of three waters reform.

Last year, Mahuta announced she would force water assets like pipes and reservoirs currently held by 67 different councils into four enormous regional water entities, which the councils would jointly own.

The entities would help councils deliver better quality water services by raising greater levels of funding, which councils had struggled to do.

But the proposals were mired in controversy from some who saw the reforms as the confiscation of council assets, because councils would have little real control over how water was delivered to their area.

Other opponents focussed on the reforms’ complicated co-governance component: the governance of the entities will be by a board selected by a panel, which is selected by another group that has equal local government and mana whenua representation.

The controversy was enough for Mahuta to commission a working group to look at some of those controversial aspects, although the group was constrained in what it could recommend.

The group reported back in March, proposing that the councils should have shareholdings in the new water entities to better reflect the amount of water assets they had contributed to the scheme.

The group also proposed changes to the regional representation group: the high-level group of people to whom the water entity boards are accountable. The changes would make the entities more accountable to this group, but they would also make the co-governance of the group more explicit.

It would have a local government and mana whenua co-chair and make decisions by consensus.

The proposals were not enough for some councils, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff publishing a dissenting view to the working group saying that its solutions were not suitable for Auckland.

The Government wants to have legislation to create the entities passed this term. National and Act both oppose the reforms.

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