Contributed by: Steven Sutton, Victoria Piatov and Ayesha Goel
Published on: June 12, 2023
Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee (Committee) has now reported back on the Water Services Legislation Bill (Bill 2) and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill (Bill 3) which, combined, represent most of the legislative package to implement the Affordable Water Reform (previously known as Three Waters). The Committee has made a number of recommendations in relation to both bills.
Bill 2 primarily amends the Water Services Entities Act 2022, which was enacted late last year and is the first in the suite of legislation underpinning the reform. Bill 2, among other things, introduces provisions regarding the water services entities' (WSEs) functions, powers, and duties.
Bill 3 provides for the economic regulation of water infrastructure services and for a consumer protection regime. The Commerce Commission will act as the economic and consumer protection regulator, and a new role of Water Services Commissioner will be established.
The Committee has recommended by majority that both bills be passed. The Committee unanimously recommended the amendments to Bill 2 but recommended the amendments to Bill 3 by a majority. Each of the Committee's reports also set out the minority views from the Opposition and other political parties.
The Government wants Parliament to enact both Bill 2 and Bill 3 before the final adjournment of the House on 31 August 2023, prior to the general election on 14 October 2023. With only 24 sitting days left before the House adjourns, the Government will need to act swiftly.
A further bill is also expected to be introduced this month to give effect to the Minister of Local Government's announcements in April this year, namely that ten WSEs will be established instead of the original four, and there will be a staggered approach to when the WSEs start delivering services (see our previous alert on these announcements here). Given this new bill, the Committee has flagged that its reports on Bill 2 and Bill 3 do not discuss any potential changes relating to these announcements.
The Committee's reports can be found here and here. If you have any questions, including on the nature of the amendments that have been made to the bills, please get in touch with one of our experts below.
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