Responding positively and proactively to NZ water reform

Posted on June 20, 2021

Univerus is out in front of the New Zealand Three Waters Reform Programme’s asset management journey

Last year, at the New Zealand Water Conference in Hamilton, we attended the Taumata Arowai pre-conference workshop. We knew it would be highly informative and valuable because, when the Water Services Bill is passed expected to be in the second half of 2021, Taumata Arowai will take over as the regulator of drinking water.

Taumata Arowai became a new Crown entity in March 2021, and is the dedicated water services regulator for Aotearoa.

In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform Programme – a three-year programme to reform local government three waters service delivery arrangements. This reform programme builds on the progress made through the Three Waters Review and the establishment of Taumata Arowai.

A range of different councils operate the Three Waters services nationwide, and they're facing significant challenges around the delivery of these services, including:

  • Infrastructure deficits
  • Safety compliance
  • Environmental compliance and expectations
  • Resilience to natural hazards and climate change

Meeting these challenges will mean the implementation of comprehensive, sytstem-wide reform - the focus of the Three Waters Reform programme.

What does the water reform mean for our local government clients?

This is a challenging time for those involved in water service throughout New Zealand. It's essential local government entities understand the alignment their data has with neighbouring councils, and other councils in their potential water reform areas – which looks likely to be as few as four areas for the whole of the country. In order to meet the challenges presented by the water reform, you need asset management and service delivery partners who are hands-on, and who are planning for the future, not reacting to news after it arrives.

The Univerus response - a proactive approach

For the team at Univerus it's an exciting time. For us to be out in front of shaping NZ's Three Water asset management journey, we need to have our eyes firmly on the future. It's with that in mind that we're working proactively with the Quake Centre to align our Asset Management System (for the Three Waters) to the Code Of Practice that is being developed by the Quake Centre and the National Technical Standards Committee, in advance of the Water Reforms being undertaken.

The Code of Practice is an alignment document, aimed at enabling collaboration by local government and organisations on their asset management data and metadata. For example, Rata, the Waikato Local Authority Shared Services group, are currently engaged in bringing all Waikato Council’s asset data together to be able to collaborate effectively, while at the same time also working on alignment with the Code of Practice.

Univerus, in partnership with Rata and the Quake Centre, has begun the process of comparing and aligning our AssetFinda clients' databases, highlighting areas that may pose a higher risk in the future. Throughout this process, we have focused on the collaborative ability of our system, and compliance with the Code of Practice, which we are using as the guiding alignment document for all of New Zealand.

What's exciting for us about the work that Rata is doing is our development of a Univerus Asset management portal. We're proactively uploading all the Waikato Council's data to this portal, and mapping it as per the Code of Practice in advance of the Water Reforms. We're also undertaking significant development work with the product to ensure that not only the fields align with the Code of Practice, but also the data that is being captured in these fields. The Code of Practice outlines the valid data, so we're conducting an extensive analysis of our clients' data to complete an assessment of the alignment of that data in relation to the Code of Practice dataset.

A significant benefit of this close partnership is that we are proactively involved with the future development of sections of the Code of Practice that are still in development, including the condition and performance and revaluation phases.

Our goal is to continue to be a leader in Asset Management and System Delivery, not only here in New Zealand but globally, and to play a proactive role in the shaping of New Zealand’s Three Water Asset Management Journey. To achieve this, we need to continue to lead in areas of collaboration, communication, and technical development.

If you'd like to find out more about how Univerus can help your local government organisation respond to the challenges of the Three Waters Reform Programme, don't hesitate to get in touch.