Three Waters Reform – Change is coming. Neither for, nor against the changes this article looks at what the Government is looking at doing, what the changes might look like, and what opportunities could arise for Water Engineers and Civil Engineers across New Zealand.  

Water Engineering Industry gearing up for change – what part will you play?

Already stretched thin due to a historically low unemployment rate, a housing shortage, and closed borders, our industry is in desperate need of more resources. Engineering consultancy firms throughout New Zealand that were already competing for staff, will need to attract more talented engineers to join them.

Not to be understated, the incoming changes will create a mountain of work for the industry, and potentially once in a lifetime opportunities for skilled engineers. Are you in the best position to realise the true effects of these changes?   

We are working with a cross-section of the largest, medium and specialist firms in this sector, and have a selection of the best Water and Civil opportunities available in New Zealand right now, here.

  • Technical Director – 3 Waters 
  • Senior or Principal Civil Engineer – 3 Waters Focus
  • Team Leaders / Service Leaders – 3 Waters
  • Intermediate or Senior Water Resource Engineers
  • Civil or Senior Engineers – 3 Waters Design

New Zealand’s water infrastructure sector is badly in need of repair 

It is estimated that 35,000 people become ill from poor quality drinking water in NZ each year. It is also estimated that nationally an average of 20% of drinking water is lost on its way to households.  As it stands currently, a projected $120b to $185b is required over the next 30 years to maintain or upgrade our Three Waters Network. (More information can be found here).

Our water assets are publicly owned and are maintained by 67 different councils across New Zealand. Different councils mean different processes, different standards, and different budgets available to repair, replace and build new assets. 

This cost of repairing the networks, and improving water quality requires substantial investment, in large it is expected this will exceed what most councils and ratepayers can afford, which has led the government to step in. 

NZ’s water infrastructure sector – major period of change on the horizon

The Government’s ‘three waters reform’ is currently in a development phase, with a range of working groups engaging with Councils, iwi, and industry. New legislation and policy to govern the proposed changes are due in the coming months. 

Their plan is that from the 1st of July 2024, four new water services entities will deliver drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services to people across New Zealand. A new independent water regulator will be appointed to oversee and enforce the new standards. 

In the meantime a National Transition Unit has been formed to facilitate the changes and design the framework for the new entities, working alongside councils, iwi/Māori, and the water sector.

Should the changes happen, the industry is looking at a shakeup on a scale that we haven’t seen before.  

Change can be good – but what are the side effects?

The Department of Internal Affairs which the NTU sits within has released this guidance document that outlines opportunities for the reform. 

Key side effects of what they are addressing could include:

  • Te Mana o Te Wai – Health and Wellbeing at the centre of the system. 
  • Access to more investment, and a world-leading network.
  • Uniformed national design standards for water assets. 
  • A more efficient consent process.
  • 6,000 to 9,000 new job opportunities. 
  • Greater housing and economic development opportunities.
  • True engagement between mana whenua, local and national government. 

We’d love to hear from you and get your feedback in terms of this major project, please reach out to us at Tyler Wren.