New Zealand Law Society - Dedicated water regulator to be established

Dedicated water regulator to be established

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The Government has announced a new regulatory framework for drinking water is to be established, with a new dedicated water regulator to oversee the regulatory regime.

It says the new regulatory framework will include:

  • An extension of the regulatory coverage to all drinking water suppliers, except individual household self-suppliers;
  • A multi-barrier approach to drinking water safety, including mandatory disinfection of water supplies, with exemptions only in appropriate circumstances;
  • Stronger obligations on water suppliers and local authorities to manage risks to sources of drinking water; and
  • Strengthened compliance, monitoring and enforcement of drinking water regulation.
  • While regional councils will remain the primary regulators for the environment, there will be stronger central oversight of wastewater and stormwater regulation, including:
  • Requirements for wastewater and stormwater operators to report annually on a set of national environmental performance measures;
  • Rational good practice guidelines for the design and management of wastewater and stormwater networks; and
  • Monitoring of emerging contaminants in wastewater and stormwater, and coordinating national responses where necessary.

Information on the latest position is contained in a July Cabinet Paper, which has now been released.

The majority of the reforms will be implemented through a Water Services Bill. The Government has said it aims to introduce this by the end of 2019, with possible enactment by mid-2020. The legislation will include transitional arrangements to allow water suppliers to adjust to the regulations, with support from the new regulator, if necessary.

The water regulator will have a range of responsibilities and functions, including sector leadership; standards setting; compliance, monitoring and enforcement; capability building; information, advice and education; and performance reporting.

The scope, roles and institutional form of the regulator (including whether to include regulation of all three waters within a single regulator, or separate entities) will be the subject of further Cabinet consideration in September 2019.