National’s plans for controversial three waters reform
Wellingtonians who voted for the incoming National-led government and hope to see a reversal of Labour’s three waters reforms may face disappointment.
Chris Bishop, the likely Minister of Infrastructure, confirmed that other than ensuring there is no co-governance, little will change.
Labour’s reforms involved setting up 10 entities responsible for three waters across the country.
The entities were to be set up by July next year but both National and ACT promised to repeal the Three Waters Reform Bill if elected.
Speaking to The Post on Thursday, Bishop said there would be little change under the incoming government.
Councils would no longer be forced to join one of the 10 new entities and would be given the option of forming their own. In Wellington, he said it was inevitable that the body responsible for three waters would be Wellington Water.
Wellington Water already provides water services to the Wellington, Upper and Lower Hutt, Porirua and South Wairarapa councils.
So while the entities would still exist, there would be no co-governance – a subject that sparked rallies throughout the country from those opposed to the idea. But ownership of the infrastructure would still transfer to the new entities, Bishop said.
That would allow the entities to borrow money to fix leaky pipes.
“That is a critical part of our plan to take the asset off the council books so they lend on it.”
Wellington Water chief executive Tonia Haskell said the entity supported any change that saw the region receive the funding it needed “so our communities can continue to receive enough safe water with better environmental water outcomes”.
Haskell said Wellington Water would work with whatever model its council owners proposed.
“We look forward to gaining certainty on what that would look like in the future as it’s important for us to be able to provide our people and our supply chain with that certainty as soon as possible.”
Wellington Water this month told the Regional Water Committee that if it did all the work needed to bring the region’s infrastructure up to scratch, it would need $1 billion a year.
Haskell has confirmed this was the annual cost to fix all the leaks and bring all the region’s ageing network up to scratch.
Earlier this month, Wellington Water warned that some households could be without water in the event of a hot, dry summer.
National’s plan is another step on a tortuous road for water reforms, which was spurred on by a report into an outbreak of campylobacter in Havelock North’s water supply in 2016.
The outbreak was linked to four deaths, and dozens of people were admitted to hospital.
“We look forward to gaining certainty on what that would look like in the future as it’s important for us to be able to provide our people and our supply chain with that certainty as soon as possible.” Tonia Haskell Wellington Water chief executive