Edmonds Judd

Three Waters repealed

To be repealed by new government

The 2023 election has resulted in a National Party-led coalition, that campaigned on a commitment to repeal the Labour government’s Three Waters legislation and the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) replacement legislation. It has confirmed that these statutes will be repealed within its first 100 days in office.


Three Waters to be Local Water Done Well

The previous government introduced Three Waters to reform water management by shifting it away from New Zealand’s 67 councils, and handing it to four large co-governed regional entities. It was entitled ‘Three Waters’ as the legislation related to three main types of water infrastructure: storm water, drinking water and wastewater. In April this year, after much criticism, Three Waters was renamed Affordable Water with 10 publicly owned water services entities to be established.

The new government intends to introduce its Local Water Done Well plan that will:

  • Repeal Three Waters and scrap the co-governed mega-entities
  • Restore council ownership and control
  • Set water quality and infrastructure investment rules, and
  • Ensure water services are financially sustainable.

Within one year of repealing Three Waters, councils will be required to deliver a plan detailing how they will transition their water services to the new model that meets water quality and infrastructure investments rules, while being financially sustainable in the long-term. Communities, via their local council, will retain ownership of their assets.

Under Local Water Done Well, a Water Services Regulator will be introduced; its role will be to set and enforce water quality standards across New Zealand. It will also be responsible for developing and enforcing rules around the management of stormwater and wastewater that will include setting standards for acceptable discharge and mitigating environmental risks to rivers and beaches.

Local councils will have to present a model for the delivery of water services that is financially sustainable and meets the strict rules for water quality and water infrastructure. If a council cannot achieve financial sustainability by, for example, gaining access to long-term borrowing, the government will provide limited one-off funding to bridge the gap. Support will be decided on a case-by-case basis; Crown funding can only be used for projects needed to transition to a sustainable footing, not for day-to-day delivery of water services.


Resource Management Act 1991

In February 2021, the Labour government announced that the RMA would be repealed and replaced with three new statutes: the Spatial Planning Act, the Natural and Built Environment Act and the Climate Adaption Act. The first two statutes were passed in August; the Climate Adaption Bill did not pass before October’s general election. Early in its election campaign, the National Party labelled the RMA-replacement legislation as complex and pledged to repeal them within its first 100 days of office.

The National Party had agreed that the RMA needed fixing but instead campaigned on its own changes.

The National Party’s coalition agreement with ACT and New Zealand First reflects all parties’ commitment to reduce red tape. In particular, the government wants to make it easier to obtain consents for infrastructure (including renewable energy), building houses, and aquaculture and other primary industries. The coalition agreement also presents a desire for ‘allowing farmers to farm’ which suggests the red tape cut from the RMA will lead to a reduction in bureaucracy and more time spent actually farming.

The new government has stated that it will begin to work on a longer-term programme to repeal the RMA, however the detail of this plan is yet to be announced. We will keep you informed during that process.



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