Water Services Reform is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create the conditions for major transformation in water services management and delivery in New Zealand.
The signs of our water systems being at breaking point are all around us: broken pipes, outdated wastewater treatment plants, environmental harm, regular or permanent boil-water notices, and poor resilience to climate change. The Water Services Reform will ensure New Zealanders can enjoy safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services – now and in the future.
The reform will see the water services – drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – shift from being delivered by 67 individual councils to 10 new Water Services Entities (WSE) as of 1 July 2024.
For water sector professionals, the changes proposed will create the conditions to grow and sustain a highly skilled and adaptable workforce that can further innovate and drive greater outcomes for New Zealanders. Organisations of scale, such as the WSE, will enable new training and career pathways, as well as the ability to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Economic analysis projects that the reforms will create 6,000 to 9,000 jobs over the next 30 years.
As subject matter experts on water infrastructure, services, and waste management, the water sector is a key group in supporting the success of the water services reform throughout the transition and long-term.
Creating certainty on the future pipeline of water services projects is also key focus for the transition. An initial Asset Management Plan (AMP) is due to be delivered in 2023, which will then prioritise the water projects that are ready for delivery in the 2024/2025 period.
Suppliers and contractors
Existing large and small contracted suppliers who have wholly three water contracts with councils will automatically transfer over from their existing arrangement with councils to being with the new Water Services Entities. From 1 July 2024, the WSE will have the powers and functions to provide water services and will continue to work with consultants, suppliers and construction contractors to ensure water services are provided and infrastructure is delivered.
Mixed use contracts, that are inclusive of services and goods beyond water, are in the process of being clarified on how best to transfer the water specific elements only and minimise any adverse impacts where possible.
The Water Entities Services Legislation Bill specifies that:
- Contracts with local government organisations that are wholly related to water services will automatically transfer to the new water services entities
- Contracts with local government organisations that partly relate to water services and partly to other services will be split or shared between the new water services entities and the local government organisation
Creating certainty on the future pipeline of water services projects is also key focus for the transition. An Entity initial Asset Management Plan (AMP) is due to be delivered in 2024, which will then prioritise the water projects that are ready for delivery in the 2024/2025 period.
Council water workforce
Council employees whose primary role is to deliver or support water services will be guaranteed a role with their local Water Services Entity under a legislated process. They will be able to keep their current employment agreement, choose to accept a new employment agreement or as union members may participate in bargaining for a new collective agreement.
Those current council employees who fall into the water services categories will be supported through a transition journey that will help them understand the reform and transition process, the implications of this work, and how it might affect them and their current organisations. A key focus of the NTUs work in this area is to mitigate any adverse impacts for transitioning staff, and successfully prepare and connect them with their new WSE ready for stand-up on 1 July 2024.
Visit Te Rapunga for more detailed information on the staff transition.