Taumata Arowai became the official water services regulator for Aotearoa on Monday.
Its role and powers as the new independent water services regulator replaces the previous responsibilities of the Ministry of Health, under the Water Services Act 2021.
The new Crown entity will begin by focussing on regulating drinking water services to help ensure safe and sufficient drinking water across Aotearoa.
This includes taking enforcement action when a drinking water supplier fails to meet its duties, particularly where drinking water poses a serious risk to public health.
Wairoa District Council Chief Executive Kitea Tipuna said the Water Services Act (2021) asks more of councils and private drinking water suppliers. At least once every three years, all councils will be required to identify private drinking water suppliers in their communities and carry out drinking assessments to determine water supply demand, safety, quality, and any potential risks.
By 2025, all currently unregistered drinking waters suppliers must register with Taumata Arowai.
By 2028, all unregistered drinking water suppliers, including rural, marae, and Papakainga will need to meet the new Water Services Act, drinking water standards, and rules, or be using an acceptable solution as defined in the Act.
Mr Tipuna said the Wairoa District Council is collaborating on a regional project with Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay Councils to determine the number and location of private water suppliers in the Hawke’s Bay region based on existing information held by councils and other stakeholder agencies. This work began in August 2021 and expected to be completed by late February 2022.
“This is a trial project with the intention of developing a framework for water supply assessments in the future. It is an important project for private drinking water suppliers and will help them understand what the Water Services Act changes mean for them and the community they provide drinking water to. It allows them the opportunity to give feedback on the implications of the proposed regulations and acceptable solutions directly to Taumata Arowai.”
Mr Tipuna said the Wairoa District Council is also part of a regional project to develop an incentive fund for private drinking water suppliers to get some financial assistance for such things as water quality testing, water safety plan creation/updates, small water system equipment or upgrades, drinking water supply training courses, installing systems to prevent water backflow, new water tanks, new water source investigation, preparing operations and maintenance manuals and standard operating procedures.
“To date the work the Wairoa District Council is involved with is being paid for from the government’s 2020 three waters stimulus funding for three waters.”
Mr Tipuna said it is too early to predetermine any long-term impacts as private water suppliers have three years, until 2025, to assess the risk in their respective districts. Plus, the government’s decision to legislate to mandate local councils to hand over their drinking water, wastewater and storm water assets to four new multi-regional entities in 2024, will also have a massive impact on what Council’s future role is.
“We cannot predetermine any outcomes around service and delivery, financial implications or anything else within the Three Waters space until the Government provides a clear pathway forward.
“The main message we need to be getting out to our community at the moment is that all private water suppliers, from farmers to marae, do need to be very aware of the implications these new standards will have on them.”
16 November 2021
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