Three Waters Reform

UPDATE: 22 December 2021

On 21 Dec the Memorandum of Understanding between Partner Councils in relation to the 3 Waters Campaign was released with 24 councils signatures.

The signatory councils (“Partner Councils”) to this Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) oppose the Government’s intention and have agreed to work cooperatively together to campaign to convince the Government to reconsider its position in favour of other options that better deliver a set of reform proposals that meet the needs of communities, councils and Government (“the Campaign”).

Read the full MoU here.


UPDATE: 16 December 2021


Communities 4 Local Democracy – the voice of more than a million New Zealanders


Kaikoura’s Mayor Craig Mackle was one of many Mayors representing more than a million New Zealanders that were taking their Three Waters concerns to Parliament yesterday, marking the first step of a powerful new local democracy campaign.

“It felt awesome to be a part of this movement and yesterday’s meeting resulted in some really supportive cross-party conversations.”

Mayor Craig Mackle said.

Communities 4 Local Democracy - He hapori mō te Manapori is a newly formed and growing group of 23 councils from around the country.  The group was created in response to serious concerns about the Government’s Three Waters reforms, and numbers are growing as local councils consider the implications of the proposed legislation – in particular losing control of approximately $60 billion of community owned assets across the whole country.   

More than a dozen mayors and other elected representatives are taking the group’s message to meetings at Parliament with National ACT and the Green Party.

“Like the Government, we want to ensure all New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water and we are committed to working with the Government to achieve that,” says Helen Worboys, Mayor of Manawatu and Chair of the new group.

“No-one disputes the need for investment, but there’s a better way to achieve the Government’s objectives and we want to work in partnership with them on that,” she says. 

“Our action group will introduce fresh ideas for better water.  But our fresh ideas will ensure that our local communities continue to have a say on how the assets that they have bought and paid for are used to achieve our health and environmental goals.

“This is an inclusive campaign – it’s about safe drinking water for all New Zealanders, whoever and wherever they are.  More meaningful Mana Whenua representation is an important part of that.  It’s also an apolitical campaign – we’re completely focused on the issue regardless of political affiliation.

“We are the elected local voice of our communities – communities that are very clearly telling us that they don’t want control of the assets that generations of our ratepayers built up and paid for being snatched away from them as part of the Government’s plan,” Mayor Worboys says.

“We don’t believe that the best solution lies in putting our assets into what will be four of the largest companies in New Zealand – and then denying our communities their say in how those companies are run.”

Communities 4 Local Democracy is taking a constructive approach to the situation by commissioning expert advice on alternative models that might achieve the objectives of Government and local communities.  It will be sharing its findings when they are complete. 


About Communities 4 Local Democracy


  • Communities 4 Local Democracy partner councils (correct at Tuesday 15 December 2021):


Ashburton District Council

Central Hawkes Bay District Council

Christchurch City Council

Far North District Council

Grey District Council

Hurunui District Council

Kaikōura District Council

Kaipara District Council

Kawerau District Council

Manawatu District Council

Matamata-Piako District Council

Napier City Council

Ōpōtiki District Council

South Taranaki District Council

South Waikato District Council

Tararua District Council

Timaru District Council

Waimakariri District Council

Waimate District Council

Waipa District Council

Wairoa District Council

Westland District Council

Whangarei District Council






  • Three partner councils (Whangārei District Council, Timaru District Council and Waimakariri District Council) recently filed a High Court application seeking clarification of what ownership means in relation to their ratepayer-funded water assets.  Between them, these three councils have $1.76 billion in ratepayer funded water infrastructure.

Media contact: Stephen Doran - 027 202 7784



UPDATE: 3 December 2021

On Wednesday 27 October 2021 the Minister for Local Government announced that the three waters reform process would become mandatory for all Councils.  The Government intends to introduce legislation into the House before Christmas which would in effect force Councils to hand over control and effective ownership of their water assets to one of the four new water entities. 


Government had previously promised that, as part of a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Councils would have an option whether to join (opt-in/opt-out). Many Councils have objected strongly to the Government’s decision to remove the ability of Councils to opt out.

The Kaikōura District Council, as part of its feedback to the Government on 29 September, questioned the reliability of underlying data, and reiterated the results of community feedback which showed strong feeling against the proposed reform as it currently stood.


The announcement by central government to mandate the three waters service delivery reform has not been received well across the country. Central government has set up a working group to consider the main issues that were raised in the feedback from Councils. However, there is strong view that they are still not listening and that the decision to mandate the reforms and remove local authority decision making ability goes beyond the reforms and affects local democracy in general. Various options to get the government to listen have been discussed at both a regional and national level.

Normally this sort of process would be run by Local Government New Zealand. However, LGNZ, although not supportive of making the reforms mandatory, are still of a view of continuing to work alongside central government to leverage the best outcomes possible. They are also hamstrung through the signed Heads of Agreement (HOA) with Central Government that prevents them opposing a mandatory approach. Our view isthat LGNZ did not have a mandate from its membership to sign this HOA and we do not consider LGNZ has acted in the interests of its member in this situation.


We are working alongside a number of other like-minded Council’s to convince the Government to alter its intention to proceed with legislation that will compel Councils to transfer their 3 Waters assets into the ownership and/or operational control of another legal entity without the agreement of an affected Council to that transfer. As part of that we have signed a letter with 29 other Mayors requesting a direct meeting with the Prime Minister to voice our concerns. In short Councils across New Zealand are joining forces in hope that our joint voices will get traction and we won’t need to escalate things further.



UPDATE: 27 October 2021

In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements. The Three Waters Reform will significantly change the way water infrastructure and services are delivered in our District.

On 27th October 2021 the Government announced they would legislate to enable the proposal to transfer control of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure from 67 councils nationwide to four large independent entities. Three Waters Reform will be mandatory for councils as the legislation moves ahead. You can read the Minister’s full media release here.

Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle has said "I’m filled with disbelief. How can they push ahead with such a complete lack of respect for local Councils and their communities? A complete lack of factual information, and lack of credible response to the actual facts that we have provided to them?"

"I’m sick and tired of hearing about this compelling case for change – how can spending $280M over thirty years on our District’s infrastructure that’s worth $57M be compelling?! This proposed investment would replace our water infrastructure over 5 times! - the numbers just don’t add up. If this is any indication of how the sums have been created for the rest of New Zealand, God help us."

"The majority of Councils oppose these reforms as they currently stand but there has been no acknowledgement of this. I can’t believe a government in our country could walk over people in such a way. This is bigger than the Three Waters Reform and I have grave concerns for the future of local democracy and democracy in general in New Zealand."

"We have heard a strong voice from our community and the majority oppose these reforms, but this has just been whitewashed by central government. And we have now lost the opportunity to consult further with our community at a local level on the biggest change in a generation."

"As a representative of this community, I’ll be standing up for Kaikōura and opposing these reforms right through to the steps of the Beehive. I don’t believe this is the way to enact any type of change that supposedly benefits local communities."

Click here to view a map of the proposed boundaries and more information about the proposed entities. 

You can read more about the summary of local government feedback on the three waters reform proposals here.
You can also find more information on the reform programme on the DIA and LGNZ websites. 


Below is the timeline from government outlining the key steps in the reform pathway.



What does this mean for Kaikōura