Cyclone Gabrielle shows why Three Waters is needed, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says the Government's massive water reforms are a necessity - even more so in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

His comments come after National said it would scrap the controversial Three Waters if elected, describing the model as "undemocratic and unworkable".

"Instead, a National Government will set and enforce strict water quality standards and require councils to invest in the ongoing maintenance and replacement of their vital water infrastructure, while keeping control of the assets that their ratepayers have paid for," party leader Christopher Luxon said in a statement on Saturday.

But the Government continues to defend Three Waters. Asked on AM if it could afford the reforms, Hipkins said Three Waters was designed to save money in the long term.

"This work has to be done in the next 30 years. If we don't intervene to do it more efficiently, ratepayers are going to pay and they're going to pay in the form of higher rates."

But Luxon, who was the National Party's Local Government spokesperson before becoming leader, said Three Waters wasn't the answer.

He said the reforms "will take assets off local communities, transferring them to four mega-entities that no one asked for, no one wants and that have mandatory co-governance".

However, Hipkins said Three Waters would put "a structure in place that will allow for a 30-year investment in water infrastructure".

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Newshub.

"If you look at the water infrastructure in those [cyclone] affected areas, it hasn't stood," he said.

When asked whether the Government should be fixing cyclone-affected areas first instead of spending money on Three Waters, Hipkins said it was a question of, "How do we do it in the best way possible and how do we make sure we're actually delivering the first-world water infrastructure that those communities deserve?

"These recent events of the past few weeks have highlighted that we don't have the water infrastructure that New Zealand communities need… the plants and the treatment facilities simply did not cope with what we've experienced."

Hipkins didn't know the exact details of what has been spent on the reforms so far but the estimated total cost over three decades was between $130 billion and $180 billion.