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Water Services Legislation Swept Away

Water Services Legislation Swept Away

Water Services Legislation Swept Away

Thursday 22 February, 2024

The Water Services Repeal Act 2024 (the Act) came into force on 17 February immediately repealing the Water Services Entities Act 2022, the Water Services Legislation Act 2023, the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Act 2023, as well as disestablishing the Northland and Auckland Water Services Entity.

The Act comprehensively undoes the previous Government’s water services reforms without replacing them with anything other than the pre-existing provisions under the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA), but the Minister of Local Government has announced further measures to come:

“Two further bills will be introduced this year to progress our policy of Local Water Done Well, with the first introduced and enacted by mid-2024, and the second introduced in December 2024 and enacted by mid-2025. 

Local Water Done Well recognises the importance of local decision-making and flexibility for communities and councils to determine how their water services will be delivered in future. We will do this while ensuring a strong emphasis on meeting rules for water quality and long-term investment in infrastructure.

We are asking councils to lead the way in developing local solutions to our water services challenges. This includes requiring them to provide water services delivery plans that outline how they will deliver on outcomes for water quality, infrastructure investment and financial sustainability.”

Although the Act contains no transitional, savings, or related provisions, it does address the provisions for water services and related infrastructure funding in local authorities’ 2024/2034 long-term plans (LTPs). Prior to the commencement of the Act, clause 27(2) of Schedule 1AA of the LGA had precluded from long-term planning any content relating to water services.

That content included:

  • any draft or final long-term plan;
  • a consultation document and the information relied upon;
  • a financial strategy; and
  • an infrastructure strategy.

That provision, and the whole of Part 6 (Provisions relating to Water Services Entities Act 2022) and Part 7 (Provision relating to Water Services Legislation Act 2023) of Sch 1AA of the LGA, have now been repealed and replaced by a new Part 8 (Provisions relating to Water Services Acts Repeal Act 2024).

Adoption of LTP

Given the looming deadlines for consultation and adoption of the 2024/2024 LTPs, the Act provides options for local authorities for the adoption of those plans.

Extend timeframe for adoption of 2024-2034 LTP

Where a local authority has adopted a consultation document before 17 February 2024 excluding content relating to water services, it can issue a new consultation document or re-consult on the LTP, and delay adoption of the 2024-2034 LTP no later than 30 September 2024 to allow consultation on any changes. The local authority must comply with the decision-making protocols in sections 77 to 78 LGA, but there is some greater degree of discretion as to the degree of compliance.

A consultation document for the 2024-2034 LTP need not contain a report from the Auditor-General.

An LTP prepared before 17 February 2024 and any related consultation is not invalid if its content included information about the provision of water services that was contrary to the now repealed Part 6 of Sch 1AA of the LGA. In such a case, any rates set, assessed, or collected are not invalidated because the LTP material includes information about the provision of water services.

Where a local authority extends the date for adoption of its 2024-2034 LTP, the 2021-2031 LTP continues in force until the new LTP is adopted. In such circumstances the local authority may also extend its policy on development contributions or financial contributions and has until 31 December 2024 to complete its annual report for the 2023/2024 financial year.

Defer adoption of 2024-2034 LTP

There is also an option for a local authority to resolve no later than 30 April 2024 to defer adopting its LTP by one year, or it may be authorised by an Order in Council to do so.

An Order in Council can only be made on the recommendation of the Minister in accordance with specified conditions. These include the adoption by 30 June 2025 of an LTP for the period 1 July 2025 to 30 June 2034 and other adjustments to bring the LTP planning cycle back into step for future planning documents, as well as the adoption of an annual plan for the 2024/2025 financial year with specific requirements.

Other matters

The Act also allows for the deferment of a review of water services bylaws until 1 July 2026 where the review period expires in the period between 15 December 2022 and 30 June 2024 and the deferment decision is made by 31 December 2025.

There are also consequential amendments to other Acts, including to definitions in the Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator Act 2020 and in the Water Services Act 2021. Further, the amendments to the LGA made by Part 5 of the Water Services Act are repealed. This includes specific obligations to make assessments of drinking water, wastewater and sanitary services and to ensure communities have access to safe drinking water, provisions for reporting to Taumata Arowai, and the duty on local authorities to ensure access to drinking water where existing suppliers have significant problems.


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