Government agrees to changes on Three Waters after Select Committee recommendations


The government has agreed to make changes to its Three Waters reforms following recommendations from a Select Committee.

The reforms - which aim to put New Zealand's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater into four regional entities - have been highly controversial, with councils claiming they will lose control.

But the cross-party Finance and Expenditure Committee's report has recommended that a mix of rural, provincial, and metropolitan councils now be present on the regional groups.

The entities will also have annual shareholders' meetings, and there will also be stronger accountability measures and increased audit scrutiny.

The Select Committee received more than 80,000 submissions on the bill.

In a statement, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the amendments make the legislation more workable.

"They improve local voice, strengthen representation, and increase transparency. They will also provide certainty to councils and those working in the water services sector about the future of our critical infrastructure.

"We heard from rural councils who felt their voices would be drowned out by larger urban centres. At their request, the Bill now includes a provision which requires a mix of rural, provincial and metropolitan councils to be present on the regional representative group.

"We will also require the entities to establish an annual shareholders' meeting. In the interests of transparency, we are also requiring these meetings and entity board meetings to be held in public. This level of public reporting will give communities greater visibility of infrastructure investment that supports broader wellbeing."

She said Internal Affairs officials had also worked with the Auditor-General to improve accountability measures in the legislation, including strengthened reporting lines and obligations and increased audit scrutiny.