In a joint media statement released on Friday, Local Government Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta and Health Minister Hon David Clark announced the Government's plans to create a standalone Crown entity (a Crown agent) to regulate drinking water in New Zealand.
The establishment of the independent water regulator is part of the Government's cross-agency Three Waters Review, which was sparked when a drinking water supply in Havelock North was contaminated by campylobacter, resulting in over 5,000 reported illnesses. According to Hon Nanaia Mahuta, who is leading the Three Waters Review, New Zealand's regulatory regime has not kept pace with international best practice, and enforcement of the existing regulations has become fractured and increasingly ineffective. Although other options were considered, the Government concluded that the high degree of focus and independence of a standalone regulator would provide the best protection for New Zealanders.
The new regulator will, among other functions, focus on improving drinking water safety, building public confidence, and contributing to improved environmental outcomes by providing central oversight and guidance for the sector's wastewater and stormwater regulatory functions. Work to establish the new regulator will commence immediately, including setting up an Establishment Unit with the Department of Internal Affairs, with the design and build of the new regulator expected to take up to 18 months. The Government has indicated that a Bill implementing the plans will be introduced by the end of this year, with the expectation that legislation will be in place by mid-2020.
Further information, including the relevant Cabinet Paper and progress updates, can be found on the Department of Internal Affairs website here.