New legislation to provide affordable water services for New Zealanders

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Local Government

The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill and Water Services Legislation Bill have been introduced to Parliament today, following the passage of the Water Services Entities Act.

Once passed the legislation will ensure affordable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater can be provided to New Zealanders now and into the future.

“These Bills are an important step in addressing a fundamental cost of living issue that will affect all New Zealanders for decades to come if left unfixed,” Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

“Independent research shows households are looking at water costs increasing to as much as $9,000 per year and the failure of basic water services if we do not act quickly,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill will ensure the future water infrastructure system provides greater service quality and consumer rights protection to all New Zealanders.

"The Government has listened closely to the feedback from councils and wider communities,” David Clark said.

“We have taken on board the desire for greater transparency by the water service entities and better water user representation by expanding the Consumer Advocacy Council's remit so it can advocate on behalf of water services consumers.

“The Commerce Commission will oversee protections for New Zealanders, through a newly established Water Services Commissioner who will focus on ensuring the transparency of water entities’ operations.

“Consumers should also receive timely responses when they contact a water service entity with a query or complaint, clear communication about planned or unplanned network outages, and be able to resolve any disputes quickly,” David Clark said.

The Water Services Entities Act passed earlier today established four publicly-owned water service entities and set out their representation, governance and accountability arrangements, some powers for the transition period and arrangements about employment provisions.

“The Water Services Legislation Bill introduced today builds on the first Act. It sets out detailed functions and powers of the new entities, what they are required to do, the tools they need for their work and arrangements for the transition to the new system,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

“It establishes relationships between entities and consumers to enable greater transparency around pricing and charging, and sets out protection measures for vulnerable consumers including an extension of the current rates rebates scheme to cover water charges.

This is a cost of living issue. Households cannot afford to see their water bills and rates spiral out of control. Evidence shows this will happen without reform. Keeping a lid on rates rises is imperative, as households, businesses, communities and councils around the country face cost of living challenges.

“These Bills set out a detailed framework for water reform developed by decades of discussions and more than two years of concentrated work by Government, local government, mana whenua and industry partners.

“The Bills will shortly undergo their first reading debates in Parliament and will then be subject to a select committee process where further public submissions will be welcomed,” Nanaia Mahuta said.