Local government minister Simeon Brown confirmed that the previous government’s water reform law will be repealed by end of the month, with a long term solution in place by mid-2025, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
Three Waters/Affordable Water gone by end of February
Local government minister Simeon Brown confirmed yesterday that it will pass a bill to repeal the previous government’s Three Waters legislation (renamed Affordable Water last year) by February 23 (it’s on the list in the coalition’s 100-day plan). It will then move to implement its plan, dubbed Local Water Done Well, through two pieces of legislation. The first will be passed by the middle of this year and will set out provisions relating to council service delivery plans and transitional economic regulation. Brown says it will also “provide streamlined requirements for establishing council-controlled organisations under the Local Government Act 2002, enabling councils to start shifting the delivery of water services into more financially sustainable configurations should they wish to do so.” In short, it will allow councils to separate out their water services into council-controlled organisations if they want to. A second bill, which will stand as the long term replacement for previous reforms, will be introduced in December 2024 and passed by the middle of 2025. This will provide regulatory backstop powers to be used when required.
New advisory group to assist in implementation
A new technical advisory group has been set up to advise the government on the implementation of the new legislation. It will be chaired by Andreas Heuser, managing director at Castalia, the consulting firm that ran a rule over the National party’s tax plan. Heuser led the design of an alternative plan for Communities 4 Local Democracy (C4LD), a coalition of 30 councils that were opposed to the previous government’s water reforms. Heuser outlined the crux of the alternative in an opinion piece for the Herald (paywalled) in December last year.
Labour warns ratepayers will pay the price
Labour issued a statement shortly after the announcement. The party’s local government spokesperson, Kieran McAnulty, said, “The government’s confirmation today it will repeal the affordable water reforms will see higher rates for every ratepayer – up to 90% in some individual councils – in 30 years.” The statement continues: “They’ve also ignored departmental advice that balance sheet separation is essential, and despite promising during the campaign that they’d be able to deliver it, National have today proven what we’ve been saying all along: that they don’t get it and they have no plan.” Whanganui mayor Andrew Tripe and Auckland mayor Wayne Brown welcomed the government’s announcement.
Wellington’s mayors agree that water meters an inevitability
Brown said yesterday that it was up to councils whether they used water meters, but he added that meters were better for detecting leaks and for measuring water usage. As reported by The Post yesterday, Wellington mayors now all agree that water meters will be an inevitability for the region, which has been besieged by leaks and water restrictions. Wellington Water is warning Level 3 water restrictions may be implemented in the next two weeks. The mayors’ agreement comes after Greater Wellington Regional Council chairperson Daran Ponter issued mayors in Wellington, Hutt City, Upper Hutt, and Porirua with an ultimatum: his council would consider a higher charge for water supply beyond allocated limits if it did not see plans for water meters by January 31.