Minister Mahuta wants new 'three waters' system

By Talisa Kupenga

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says new regulatory systems for the ‘three waters’ (drinking water, storm water and wastewater) were necessary to prevent another contamination tragedy similar to that of Havelock North.

A review by the Department of Internal Affairs found that three waters services across the country were ‘inconsistent and patchy’.  However, the minister says while there were funding challenges infrastructure privatisation is off the table.

The government wants new regulations to protect water services and is inviting open talks around what to do next.

Mahuta says, "Iwi have thought long and hard about what that would look like and how they would achieve that and their input around infrastructure is a small part of those aspirations".

An aggregate model is a possibility and one the Wellington region would prefer, but the minister was unclear whether this would mean government would take over management and operation responsibilities currently held by local councils.

Porirua Mayor Mike Tana says, "Co-regulatory definitely, but conversations first about where everyone fits so when you change something you don't actually lose the validity or the value that local government gives".

The Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry makes major recommendations, including an overhaul of drinking water regulations and changes to the delivery of water services.  Mahuta says change is necessary to reduce the risk of a similar tragedy.

When asked if this was an opening for discussions around the water rights argument Mahuta says, "That is a big issue but what we are looking at is water quality and how we can protect that for everyone".

A ministerial report with recommendations around upgrading infrastructure, drinking standards and improving water quality is expected to be received by Cabinet later this year.