Working group to ensure local voice in Three Waters reform

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the establishment of a working group made up of local government and iwi representatives to recommend strengthened governance and accountability arrangements for the Three Waters Reform Programme.

“I recently announced that four water services entities would be established to ensure that all New Zealanders get safe, reliable and affordable water services,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

“The feedback we heard from local government over the recent two-month engagement period raised a number of concerns about the proposed representation, governance and accountability arrangements for the new entities. To address this, Cabinet agreed to establish a working group to take a fresh look at these aspects of the entity design.

“This initiative is another important step in our transformational Three Waters reform which aims to ensure every New Zealander has access to affordable, safe and sustainable drinking water, waste water and storm water services without ballooning costs to households and families,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

“I am pleased to announce the members of the Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability of new Water Services Entities. I am confident they will bring diverse and representative perspectives to the table.

“Establishing this working group will ensure entities have accountability back to the communities they serve, and ensure an open and transparent process so New Zealanders get the high-quality water services we all deserve,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

The Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability of new Water Services Entities is comprised of 20 members, including an independent chairperson, nine elected members of local authorities, nine iwi/Maori representatives, and the chair of the joint Central-Local Government Three Waters Steering Committee.

It will be independently chaired by Doug Martin, a highly experienced advisor in public sector organisational performance. He was a member of Auckland Council’s Council-Controlled Organisation Independent Review Panel and was appointed Crown Manager to Christchurch City Council to help it regain its accreditation as a building consent authority.

Local Government New Zealand Chair Stuart Crosby said LGNZ is pleased that the Government has acknowledged feedback from local government leaders and is committed to working with the sector, leveraging the strength of the Heads of Agreement, on developing solutions to critical issues the sector has identified.

“The Working Group will help develop solutions to sticking points around representation and accountability, and other critical issues for councils,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

“New Zealanders need water services which will meet the diverse needs of our communities, needs our councils understand better than anyone, and we are confident this working group is the circuit breaker to get the model right.

“The Working Group will work in an open and transparent way, including by making its advice and recommendations publicly available.

“It’s a bottom line for the government that water services entities continue to be publicly-owned, have operational and financial autonomy to make much needed investment, and have oversight from local authorities and mana whenua. It is essential that our water services allow for local influence and democratic accountability.

“The Working Group will report back in March 2022, which ensures there is time for the advice and recommendations to inform the final entity design,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

The Working Group members are:

  • Independent Chairperson: Doug Martin
  • Elected members of local authorities: Mayor Phil Goff, Auckland, Mayor Dr Jason Smith, Kaipara,  Mayor Garry Webber, Western Bay of Plenty, Mayor Neil Holdom, New Plymouth, Mayor Campbell Barry, Lower Hutt, Mayor Rachel Reese, Nelson, Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Christchurch, Mayor Tim Cadogan, Central Otago, and Mayor Lyn Patterson, Masterton.
  • Iwi/Māori representatives: Ngarimu Blair, Jamie Tuuta, Karen Vercoe, Ngahiwi Tomoana, Olivia Hall, Gabrielle Huria, Barry Bragg, and John Bishara. (One further representative for Entity A to be confirmed)
  • Chair of the joint Central-Local Government Three Waters Steering Committee: Brian Hanna

ENDS