New Water Regulator

Below is some detail on the new water regulator for New Zealand. Thanks to the Department of Internal Affairs for this information. Compliance will be more strictly monitored.

Taumata Arowai – Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: December 2020

What is Taumata Arowai?

Sometime in the second half of next year Taumata Arowai will become Aotearoa’s dedicated regulator of the three waters. From that time our role will come down to essentially two things:

We will oversee and administer, and enforce a new, expanded and strengthened drinking-water regulatory system, to ensure all New Zealand communities have access to safe drinking water, and if need be we will hold suppliers to account.
We will also provide oversight of the regulation, management, and environmental performance of wastewater and storm-water networks, including promoting public understanding of that performance.

Until the second half of 2021, drinking water suppliers are required to continue to comply with the Ministry of Health requirements that will continue to be the case, and all current requirements will remain in place.

Why is Taumata Arowai being established?

Aotearoa’s critical public water services are facing urgent challenges.

The establishment of Taumata Arowai is part of a broader government programme of reforms to three waters services, and indeed reforms across all aspects of wai.

We want all New Zealanders to be able to access drinking water that is safe and complies with internationally-accepted standards.

The Havelock North inquiry showed that there are many significant deficiencies in the provision and regulation of drinking water, and the subsequent 3 Waters Review found many deficiencies in the performance and environmental impacts of our waste water and storm water systems.

What is the Taumata Arowai Establishment Unit and what it is doing?

The Establishment Unit has been set up within the Department of Internal Affairs to prepare for the establishment of Taumata Arowai, to ensure it is able to fully operate following commencement of the Water Services Bill, expected to be in the second half of 2021.

The unit is currently in design and planning mode. Several reference and advisory groups have established to gain insights and feedback, hui with Iwi/Māori are underway and technical material is being drafted and discussed with stakeholders.

What is the significance of the name, Taumata Arowai?

The name Taumata Arowai, conveys the weight, responsibility and authority of the regulator. Taumata is a term associated with a summit, symposium or congress. Taumata invokes a sense of protection, leadership and wisdom. Aro means to give attention to, to focus on, or be in the presence of. Wai is water.

What type of organisation will Taumata Arowai be?

Taumata Arowai will be a standalone Crown agent with a dedicated focus on regulating drinking water, and with an oversight role relating to wastewater and storm water. A Crown agent is a category of Crown entity with a Minister-appointed board. Crown entities are part of the state sector and are owned by the Crown.

Alongside the independent Board, will be a Maori Advisory Group to advise on Māori interests and knowledge as they relate to Taumata Arowai’s objectives, functions and operating principles. The Group will be appointed by the Minister and will work closely with Taumata Arowai’s Board members, who will all be required to have a broad knowledge of the Treaty, Maori perspectives and tikanga Maori, and will also be required to publicly report on how it has had regard to the advice of the Maori Advisory Group.

Appointments to both the Board and the Māori Advisory Group will be announced shortly.

What are Taumata Arowai’s statutory objectives?

The Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator Act sets out Taumata Arowai’s statutory objectives. These include:

Protect and promote safe drinking water and related public health outcomes
Effectively administer the drinking water regulatory system
Build and maintain capability among drinking water suppliers and across the wider industry
Give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, to the extent that Te Mana o te Wai applies to the functions and duties of Taumata Arowai
Provide oversight of environmental performance of wastewater and storm water networks
Promote public understanding of the environmental performance of wastewater and storm-water networks.

When will Taumata Arowai come into existence and when will it be taking over from the Ministry of Health?

Taumata Arowai ‘s empowering legislation, the Taumata Arowai – Water Services Regulator Act, was passed in July. It is anticipated that Taumata Arowai will be stood up as a legal entity through an Order in Council in early 2021, with a Board and Maori Advisory Group to be appointed around that time.

Taumata Arowai will take over from the Ministry of Health as drinking water regulator when it is fully operational following commencement of Water Services Bill, expected to be in the second half of 2021.

What do water suppliers need to know about the transition from the Ministry of Health to Taumata Arowai?

Taumata Arowai and the Ministry of Health will work together to ensure a smooth handover of regulatory administration around July 2021. Until that time drinking water suppliers are required to continue to comply with the Ministry of Health requirements. So it is business as usual until then.

All suppliers must be registered on the drinking water register by a year after the Water Services Bill is passed (ie approx. the second half of 2022).

Supplies serving 500 or more must have a drinking water safety plan that complies with new requirements by end of year one. All other supplies must have a drinking water safety plan that complies with new requirements by end of year five (2026).

What changes in approach to Water Safety Plans should members be prepared for?

While the Ministry of Health remains the regulator the current approach to Water Safety Plans remain in place.

When Taumata Arowai becomes the regulator (in the second half of 2021), suppliers will still need a drinking water safety plan.

Plans will not be approved by Taumata Arowai – the onus will be on suppliers to ensure their plan meets legislative requirements. Taumata Arowai will review and monitor water safety plans according to scale, complexity and risk.

Taumata Arowai will provide guidance to assist suppliers in preparing their water safety plans.

Will there be any changes to the drinking water standards, and if so when will that apply from?

Drinking water standards (the maximum acceptable values will continue to be based on standards set by the WHO)

While we anticipate some changes, for example to the way the requirements are structured, and how compliance is demonstrated, these will not be significantly different to the current requirements.

Water safety planning will remain an essential step in understanding and managing the risks arising from supplying drinking water. Therefore, already registered water suppliers won’t be required to do significantly more than they are required to now.

How will Taumata Arowai demonstrate its commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

Taumata Arowai is committed to resetting and improving relationships with Treaty partners and intends to design and build with this at the forefront. The enabling legislation requires Taumata Arowai to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai.

The Establishment Unit is currently engaging with iwi/Māori to work through how it will embed Te Mana o Te Wai in its decision making and how it behaves. This will require a close relationship between Taumata Arowai and Treaty partners and kaitiaki who are best placed to advise on the tikanga and mātauranga which underpin Te Mana o te Wai.

The Māori Advisory Group will provide a support and guidance to the Board, the Chief Executive and the organisation on Māori interests and knowledge, as they relate to Taumata Arowai’s objectives, functions, and operating principles.

This includes advising Taumata Arowai on how to interpret and give effect to Te Mana o te Wai in its functions and duties, and how to enable mātauranga Māori and tikanga Māori to be exercised.

The intent is to ensure Māori interests and knowledge are embedded appropriately throughout Taumata Arowai, and it has the capability to uphold the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and engage with Māori.

How will Taumata Arowai work with councils to ensure communities in their districts or regions have access to safe drinking water?

Taumata Arowai will work closely and collaboratively with councils on developing approaches to legislative requirements under the new regulatory regime.

Will councils be responsible for making sure the output of small rural water schemes in their districts meets the drinking water standards?

No, this will be Taumata Arowai’s role. Councils will however work with their communities to ensure they have access to safe and quality drinking water.

Why will Taumata Arowai be concerning itself with rural community water supplies when they’ve always been managed locally?

Evidence indicates that some small drinking water suppliers face difficulties in providing safe and acceptable drinking water to their communities. Taumata Arowai’s starting position is that rural communities should not be second-class citizens when it comes to the safety and quality of their drinking water. To this end, Taumata Arowai will work with rural drinking water schemes to ensure they are aware of their obligations to provide safe drinking water, and that they have practical technical advice on how to affordably do so.