New 'three waters' system needed - Mahuta

New Zealand's water services need a new regulatory system to govern them, the Government says.

A new regulatory system is needed to protect the quality of New Zealand's water services, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says.

However, she has confirmed public ownership of New Zealand's water infrastructure will remain a bottom line for the Government.

Speaking to the Water Summit in Wellington on Wednesday morning, Mahuta said New Zealanders' health and environment depended upon the country's drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure - known as "the three waters".

The Havelock North inquiry had made a number of significant recommendations to improve drinking water regulations and deliver water services differently, and a "step change" was needed to avoid a similar tragedy, Mahuta said.

A three waters review led by the Department of Internal Affairs had found services were "inconsistent and patchy", with poor wastewater and stormwater services having an effect on the environment.

"We want to ensure that we have clean drinking water, an efficient delivery system and environmentally sensitive options for water treatment."

Mahuta acknowledged one of the major questions was how new infrastructure would be funded, particularly in the regions were councils were struggling to deal with growing pressures.

There were "no pre-determined solutions" to the issue, she said, with the Government keen to hold an open conversation about its options.

"However, a bottom line for this government is that there will be continued public ownership of existing three waters infrastructure.”

Mahuta said Local Government New Zealand was also looking at the three waters as part of their Water 2050 project, which would be "valuable input into the conversation and the shape of change ahead".

A full story from the Water Summit will be on Newsroom Pro later today.