LGNZ’s 3 Waters study presents first national picture of New Zealand’s water infrastructure

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has today released an issues paper ‘Exploring the issues facing New Zealand’s water, wastewater and stormwater sector’ as part of its sector-led 3 Waters project.

The sector-wide research provides a clear picture of the state and performance of local potable, wastewater and stormwater assets and services at the national level for the first time.

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says that the 3 Waters project was put in place to respond to a nationwide information gap on three waters assets and services in councils around New Zealand, and he is pleased with the sector’s response. It was a collaborative effort between LGNZ, its members, IPWEA, SOLGM and central government agencies including the National Infrastructure Unit of Treasury.

“Local government has collectively demonstrated a major commitment to greater information capture and transparency, and as a sector to own emerging issues and increase performance,” Mr Yule says.

“With an estimated $35 billion total asset replacement value, the 3 Waters are a significant and important infrastructure asset for New Zealand in which we need to manage prudently and invest wisely, particularly with changing demographics and expectations ahead.”

The information collected shows the potable, wastewater and stormwater system in New Zealand is generally sound and currently performing largely as expected. However LGNZ has found that new demands may mean that future levels of service may need to change.

“Local government has the opportunity to deliver on and further improve water infrastructure and services. These assets are usually intergenerational in nature, and investments made must continue to provide efficient delivery of clean and safe water in years to come,” Mr Yule says.

The project has identified three focus areas for further investigation by the sector:

• Investing to replace and renew existing assets;
• Investing to meet rising standards and increasing expectations: including Drinking Water Standards in the Health Act, new freshwater standards in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and calls for greater management of the resilience of three waters assets; and
• Providing end-users with the right mix of incentives to use water infrastructure and service efficiently.

LGNZ’s is now consulting with councils and stakeholders to test the scale and scope of these issues and what might be an appropriate solutions mix. Feedback will inform the development of a White Paper due for release in March 2015.