We’ve looked closely at the water sector in New Zealand. This State of Play describes the current state of the sector, the issues it faces as well as those it needs to prepare for. 

The report is based on our own research, a survey of infrastructure owners as well as conversations with people within the sector.

Read the State of Play

Special Report: Waters Reform in New Zealand

As part of our work to understand New Zealand’s water infrastructure, we produced a special report on the topic of Waters Reform in New Zealand. This aims to provide Te Waihanga with a broad examination of the current state of New Zealand’s three waters infrastructure in the context of the government’s proposed reforms, and an emphasis on future regulatory settings.

Special Report: Waters Reform in New Zealand

Key findings 

Sector background 

Water is an essential resource and critical to our wellbeing. There is only one wai - water services are all linked, but water is used in many different ways.  For the State of Play we have defined six separate categories:  

  • potable or drinking water 
  • wastewater  
  • stormwater  
  • irrigation 
  • river control and flood protection 
  • rural drainage. 

What services this sector provides New Zealanders 

Our water infrastructure helps divert water to where it’s needed whether it’s to our townscities or pasturesit diverts it away from where its not wanted during times of rainfall or flood; and it helps to treat it so its safe to drink or to release back into the environment. 

Problems with any one of these areas can have impacts on our health, the health of our environment and the liveability of our towns and cities. This has become clear through examples such as the results of the Havelock North water contamination.  

What are the issues facing this sector 

There are a large number of players involved in providing water services – including the 67 different councils which supply the bulk of urban drinking water, waste water and stormwater servicesThere are concerns that the sector is fragmented and a more coordinated approach is needed to get the best for our environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing.  

A reform programme is underway that aims to help address some of these concerns and is looking at reforming three waters services into a smaller number of entities.  

What does the future hold 

Our water operators are facing a range of challenges. These include:  

  • The impacts of climate change. This can range from the need to cope with extreme weather events like droughts or floods, to preventing damage sea level can cause to coastal homes and businesses. 
  • Funding the cost of renewing ageing water infrastructure. Some of our water and sewage pipes are 100 years old or more. 
  • Ensuring our water meets our health needs and keeps our communities safe, while is reliable enough to support productive activities.  
  • Meeting environmental expectations for discharging waste water and the impact of taking water on flow levels, ecology and Te Mana o te Wai.  
  • Councils with high and growing populations face significant costs in building the infrastructure needed to meet demand. While for other councils, there can be challenges in funding what can be expensive systems when the number of ratepayers is declining. 
  • Finding the skilled staff and technology needed to run modern water services is increasingly an issue.  
  • The cost of running water services can also be challenging for communities.  

Let us know what you think  

Our strategy work has the potential to shape New Zealand for decades to come, and it's important to us that everyone has the chance to have their say. Tell us what you think about our snapshot.  

If you have any feedback or want to comment get in touch at info@tewaihanga.govt.nz