Transformation 2050

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TOWARDS 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Foreword ................................................................................................................................................... 1 Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................................... 2 Purpose of the 2050 transformation vision................................................................................... 3 Scope .............................................................................................................................................................5 Vision ............................................................................................................................................................6 Key stakeholders .......................................................................................................................................7 Development approach ..........................................................................................................................8 The case for change ............................................................................................................................... 9 Te Mana o te Wai .................................................................................................................................. 12 Capability and Education ................................................................................................................... 16 Environment and Climate .................................................................................................................. 19 People and Community ...................................................................................................................... 25 Digitally Enabled ................................................................................................................................... 30 Planning and Standards ..................................................................................................................... 35 Smart Buyer ........................................................................................................................................... 39


Water New Zealand’s role is to share knowledge and bring expertise together to uphold the mana of water for Aotearoa New Zealand. With this in mind, we have travelled the country workshopping what the future could like for our water services, and how we might get there, with our members and stakeholders. This document seeks to bring their ideas together.

Many clear themes emerged through our workshops. Te Mana o te Wai, valuing water and ushering in a paradigm shift in the way we think and manage water were highlighted time and time again. The introduction of Te Mana o te Wai into legislation provides a vehicle for creating this paradigm shift, and so we have sought to centre this concept at the heart of our transformation vision.

The workshops further highlighted the broad variety of stakeholders with interest in contributing to our water services; representatives of regulatory bodies, government departments, tāngata whenua, industry training or standards bodies, researchers, councils, customers, contractors, consultants and equipment suppliers. On top of this, growing the sector, attracting new talent and diverse voices to meet the needs of our communities, emerged as a central theme in our consultations.

Clearly, if our visions are to be realised, collaboration of all these parties will be required. The production of this document is one small milestone in the journey that we will take together. Water New Zealand is a community of water professionalsworking together we can co-create the future of water service delivery.

Ultimately it is our networks and ability to collaborate that will ensure success. I look forward to working with you all as we jointly move forward towards this future.

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In the year 2050, many of our water assets being installed today will have yet to reach half of their useful lives. As the sector sits on the cusp of generational regulatory changes it is more important than ever, we look to the future.


Thank you to the many contributors who have helped bring a water sector transformation vision to life.

Firstly, the over five hundred members and stakeholders who took the time to share with us their ideas for the future. This included many workshop participants in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Kirikiriroa Hamilton, Pōneke Wellington, and Ōtautahi Christchurch. A special thanks to Sarah Lang and Gary MacDonald of Beca for helping us host our first workshop in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and getting us off to a good start.

We were grateful to have four Chief Executives of our future water service entities join us for these workshops; Vaughan Payne, Jon Lamonte, Colin Crampton, and Michael Brewster. Having our future leaders lay out what they see as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead was a great way to get creative juices flowing.

We were also pleased to have contributions from our young water professionals who went online, to ensure that the voices of our future workforce were captured. Thanks in particular to session hosts Lauren Carter Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington,

Ariana Wilks Ōtautahi Christchurch, Fawaaz Farook

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Joshua Braithwaite Kirikiriroa Hamilton for acting as session chairs. Also to Justine Bennet, GHD, for engaging GHD young water professionals in this mahi.

To help us ground some of the ideas with an indepth case study that helped ground our thinking we spoke with subject matter experts. Jon Reed from Beca, Geoff Williams from Wellington Water, Jenny Wigley from Watercare, Tatjana Buklijas from University of Auckland, Jon Rix from Tonkin and Taylor Nancy Baines from Auckland Council, Doreen Christie from Ngā Puna Pūkenga, and Barbara MacLennan from Ōpōtiki District Council.

The ideas in this document were not generated from scratch. Our work builds on ideas first conceived by the National Transition Unit. This work was championed by Ian Cathcart and Fraser Robertson whose thoughts and enthusiasm provided a starting point for thinking about a transformational vision. In addition, we have built on various frameworks and visions that relate to the document. The most influential of these sources are listed through the document and in our Bibliography.

Those of us based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara

Wellington are often accused of being pointyheaded office workers, servicing the wheels of democracy. In this instance we are unashamedly inspired by our home, the beautiful rivers, stream and our magnificent harbour. Mana Whenua’s implementation plan to return mana to the freshwater bodies, articulated in Te Mahere Wai o Te Kāhui Taiao, has been a particular source of inspiration.

Thank you also to the many talented photographers who contributed images to this report to help showcase our assets and water environments, many of whom have participated in our annual photo competition.

Finally, thank you to all those who have helped pull the document together; Water New Zealand’s Belinda Cridge, Nicci Wood, Lesley Smith, and our CE Gillian Blythe.

Ngā mihi nui, from the Water New Zealand team.

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The model for delivering water services in Aotearoa New Zealand is on the cusp of generational change. This document outlines a collective vision of where we want the change to lead us. The opportunities outlined in this document are focused on the development of the sector out to 2050 – starting from today.

Just as a single drop of water can generate ripples that span a pool, the changes we make in the next 25 years will shape the liveability of Aotearoa for generations to come. It is imperative that we seize the opportunity for change and use it wisely. This vision has been developed to:

Acknowledge transformational change is needed to improve water services delivery for the future

The challenges facing water service delivery are significant. Vulnerability and inequity across communities, shortage of skills, capability and funding to deliver the agreed levels of service, and environmental degradation and climate change are all putting pressures on the ability to deliver safe and reliable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services.

It is not the purpose of this document to dwell on the issues facing water service delivery. They have been well documented elsewhere. This document recognises that the status quo is not an option and focuses on ways to make transformational changes to the technologies, practices, institutions, and people delivering water services.

Provide a waypoint to navigate change

Transformation asks us to take a path, to find “a new way of thinking and doing, that challenges the status quo, creating outside the box ideas and action”. Such change requires us to step back from business as usual and set our sights on what could be. By providing a vision and identifying opportunities en route, we can establish a waypoint to navigate towards a brighter future.

Build on our sector’s strengths and collective wisdom

The challenges and opportunities the sector faces are well understood by the workforce, who live it on a day to day basis. Through workshops, events, one-on-one interviews, and peer-review, we have worked with the Water New Zealand membership to consolidate their collective wisdom.

This vision has been developed over the last year, drawing on the expertise of the sector. It outlines where we should head, and how this can best be achieved. 1

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Harness the opportunities presented by reform

Reform of the sector represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the delivery settings for water infrastructure and services as well as the ways in which we work. Reforms give us opportunities, but they will not solve all challenges facing the industry; we need concurrent transformation across our supply chains, our workforce and supporting institutions.

Building on our current strengths and with a clear vision of the future, we can use the opportunities presented by reform to set us on a course that will ensure physical, environmental, social and financial resilience of water services.

Centre Te Mana o te Wai at the heart of watersector transformation

Te Mana o te Wai is a concept that refers to the fundamental importance of water. It recognises that prioritising the health of water in turn provides for human health, which in turn provides for our communities’ social, economic and cultural needs.

Centring Te Mana o te Wai at the core of our transformation journey offers a new paradigm to bring about the changes needed to our relationship with and management of water.

Everyone working in the water sector has to give effort to Te Mana o te Wai in the performance of their functions and duties. It also requires us to recognise and respect the kaitiakitanga (guardianship and protection) obligations of mana whenua, changing the way most New Zealanders think about water –not as an abundant resource but a finite taonga that must be valued and conserved.

Reflect the critical role of water services to contributing to Aotearoa’s broader wellbeing

Water is the lifeblood of our environment, our economy, our communities and our lives. Safe, reliable drinking water services and improved wastewater and stormwater services all underpin public health and have an essential role in environmental protection. Re-integrating water services back into natural water cycles offers us further opportunities to restore degraded ecosystems, and improve the liveability of our towns and cities.

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With this transformation, and working alongside our communities, we can protect and restore our precious water environment for the benefit of all New Zealanders.


The transformation opportunities presented here provide an aspirational vision for water services in 2050. They are grouped into seven focus areas, with goals, aspirations and stepping stones to help the sector establish a shared vision for each. The vision provides a platform, reflective of the hopes of the 500+ participants who contributed to its development.

Transformation at a sector level requires coordination. We highlight which stakeholder groups are best placed to take a lead role in achieving each of the industry milestones. By drawing together our members’ understanding of what is needed, and what is possible, this document provides a waypoint for us to navigate collectively towards better service provision.

The challenge for achieving the aspirations outlined will vary regionally, with our current disaggregated service delivery creating multiple starting points. This document does not attempt to determine the priorities, nor the necessary trade-offs, across focus areas. These decisions should rest with communities and reflect their own specific aspirations.

Several national strategies and plans relate to thematic areas and are referenced in the document. It is not the place of this document to provide another plan or strategy. Instead, it articulates a vision for the water sector and its partners who can co-create the transformation journey along a common direction of travel.

Water Services Reform will reshape the industry for years to come. A suite of legislative changes is underway that will combine drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services, consolidating the existing 64 council and council-controlled organisations into ten water service entities, and implement a supporting economic and consumer protection regime.

Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa, New Zealand’s infrastructure strategy sets a pathway to transform the way all New Zealand’s infrastructure is managed over the next 30 years.

He Whakakaupapa mō Te Hanganga o Aotearoa: The Infrastructure Action Plan is the Government’s Response to Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa, which sets out what the Government is doing, and will do, to address the challenges and opportunities set out in the Strategy.

The Construction Sector transformation plan is a companion document to the infrastructure plan. It provides a three-year transformation plan, with several actions relevant to water infrastructure capital works delivery.

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“transformation [is] emergent, as systems are not static; practice changes had multiple starting points and actions are cumulative across society… there is no recipe for transformation. The ripple effect of a drop in the water provided a useful analogy for capturing how small changes or changes at multiple and different points could have large and disruptive effects.”
(Duncan, R. Robson-Williams, M., Nicholas, G., Turner, J.A., Smith, R., and Diprose, D., 2019)


Smart Buyer

Productive, progressive, inclusive, sustainable, and climate-resilient procurement and delivery.

Planning and Standards

Co-ordinated and consistent national legislation, policy frameworks and requirements facilitating locally led service delivery.

Te Mana o te Wai

Te Mana o te Wai is centred at the heart of water service delivery.

Capability and Education

The water sector is a vocation of choice attracting and retaining valued and quality trained staff.

Environment and Climate

Healthy waters support thriving ecosystems, regenerate and restore wider environments, and underpin the wellbeing of our communities and businesses.

Digitally Enabled

Trusted data sources underpin digital analytics and platforms to enhance customer value.

People and Community

Communities are stewards and active participants of water management with access to safe, equitable and affordable water services for all.

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Water Conference delegates respond on transformation themes via conference survey


Water Services Managers workshop provide views on themes


Initial consultation consolidated into the themes outlined in this report


Workshops in Tāmaki Makaurau, Kirikiriroa, Pōneke and Ōtautahi to identify outcomes


Hybrid online and inperson workshops held with young water professionals


Subject matter experts consulted on case studies


Draft report published for membership comment


Literature review to align references with other industry guidance and strategies

Final document published

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 8


The case for transformation of water service delivery in Aotearoa New Zealand is widespread and well documented. As far back as 2000 the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment reported:

“Industry and community evidence indicates that the ‘model’ has now reached the end of its design life. Further incremental tinkering with the current

systems, without going back to first principles of community water and wastewater needs relevant to the 21st century, will simply mean the necessary changes will be harder to achieve and more costly at some time in the future.”

Without transformation the status quo will worsen as assets age, population growth increases, public

expectations rise, and climate change places increasing pressure on assets and systems. However, the case for transformative change is based not only on issues to be overcome, but also opportunities to be seized. Documented examples across the seven domains of this report are listed here.

Issues to overcome

Barriers faced by mana whenua that hinder their ability to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai include (Poipoia Ltd, 2020):

• A lack of data and information with poor or no participation by mana whenua in determining monitoring and research programmes.

• Process-driven, transactional relationships rather than the Tiriti-based partnership sought.

• Limited capability and capacity of mana whenua to manage freshwater according to their values and aspirations.

• Allocation based on first in first serve or grandparenting models is unsustainable and opposition to Te Mana o te Wai.Lack of competency across cultural capacity and capability and timeframe constraints within councils.

Opportunities to be seized

Te Mana o Te Wai opens up alternative sources of knowledge and approaches to improving water management. “Te Ao Māori includes a sophisticated understanding of the holistic and cyclical nature of water. In essence, Te Mana o te Wai acknowledges and protects the mauri of wai and, through mātauranga practices, strives to assess the condition of awa and affect the change necessary to enhance their mauri.” (Waihanga Ara Rau, 2022).

Bolster workforce participation and diversity: “The inclusion of Te Mana o Te Wai as a fundamental concept across the water regulatory environment offers inspiration for the creation of novel pathways between rangatahi and industry.” (Water New Zealand, 2023).

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Te Mana o te Wai

The sector’s workforce is struggling to attract and retain sufficient experienced and skilled staff. Around 10% of roles in the sector are vacant (Water New Zealand, 2022).

“Investment is needed now to attract, train and retain a workforce with the capacity to deliver transformational change” (Waihanga Ara Rau, 2022).

Health and Safety trends are a cause for concern. Over the five years to 2022 the number of lost time injuries reported grew by 70%. In 2022 462 days of lost time injuries occurred due to workplace accidents in water services (Water New Zealand, 2023).

An estimated 27% of water supply workers in New Zealand are female (Infometrics, 2019). Attracting more women into the workforce would expand our talent pool.

A new generation of bilingual and bicultural rangatahi are entering the workforce. “Māori in full immersion education develop deep cultural and spiritual awareness within Te Ao Māori, and gain an understanding about the complex interrelation of everything, as well as relationships to whakapapa, and the wellbeing of the land, sea and people. The industry would significantly benefit from attracting these people to water careers.” (Waihanga Ara Rau, 2022)

The water sector has broad ranging appeal as a career.

Issues to overcome Opportunities to be seized Capability and Education

“Fresh-start interviewees looked to the water industry for its perceived stability, job security, cause-drive and environmental promise” (Waihanga Ara Rau, 2022).

Thousands of highly skilled international experts could make an immediate contribution to our workforce. A global survey ranked New Zealand as the second country people would most like to live (USA Today, 2023).

Risks to potable water supply quality and quantity are ranked as New Zealand’s most urgent climate risk (Ministry for the Environment, 2020). Other climate change risks to water services include inundation of stormwater networks leading to flooding, water quality deterioration in source and receiving waters and reduced asset lives (Cowper-Heays, 2023).

Beach closures due to e-coli contamination are becoming increasingly commonplace and models estimated 45% of rivers were not suitable for activities like swimming between 2016 and 2020 (Ministry for the Environment, 2012). Wastewater and stormwater discharges are significant contributing factors.

Between 2020 and 2021 there were 4,268 reported overflows of untreated wastewater. However it is likely that this number is under reported (Water New Zealand, 2022).

Urban water security and greenhouse gas emissions can be ameliorated through leakage reduction and improved water efficiency. Annually water loss is more than the combined volume of water supplied to Wellington Water and Christchurch networks (Water New Zealand, 2021) and the average person living in New Zealanders uses nearly three times more than someone in the Pacific (Pacific Water and Wastewater Association, 2021).

There is substantial potential to further use byproducts of wastewater:

• Water from wastewater can be treated and reused to reduce pressure on potable water supplies.

• Wastewater sludges (the solid fraction of sewage) are a source of carbon and nutrients. Around 150 thousand tonnes annually go to landfill or are stockpiled (Water New Zealand, 2022).

• Energy contained in wastewater and bio-solids is estimated to exceed energy needed for its treatment 10-fold (Water Environment Federation, 2013). Technologies exist to tap latent heat and convert wastewaters embodied energy to gas, vehicle fuels or electricity.

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Environment and Climate

People and Community

Digitally Enabled

Issues to overcome Opportunities to be seized

New Zealanders have a low sense of personal responsibility for water quality, and there is generally low awareness of household behaviors that can impact water quality (Understanding New Zealanders’ attitudes to the environment, 2022).

Water charges vary significantly around the country however the most expensive charges are equivalent to 8% of superannuation payments (Water New Zealand, 2021).

The enquiry into the 2016 Havelock North outbreak cited estimates from industry experts that between 18,000 to 100,000 sundry cases of sporadic waterborne illness occur each year (Government Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking Water, 2017).

At present there is no reliable, current, single source of water services data. Subject matter experts highlight “sector-wide adoption of advanced monitoring, coupled with integrated information systems will provide a high degree of visibility about physical assets” (Waihanga Ara Rau, 2022).

The public has been shown to value water. 80% of New Zealanders identify the state of our water as their main environmental concern (Statistics New Zealand, 2018).

Planning and Standards

Existing standards and regulations for water and wastewater services vary regionally and are often piecemeal. For example in 2021 “Wet-weather overflows were consented in only seven of 37 districts” (Water New Zealand, 2022).

Nearly a quarter of wastewater treatment plants (73) are operating on expired consents, with the average time operating on an expired consent being four years. The longest time a plant has been operating on an expired consent is 20 years (GHD, Boffa Miskell, 2019).

Regulatory compliance action is often not taken in response to non-conformance with resource consents. In the 2022 fiscal year, 412 non-conformances with wastewater consents were reported however only 26 compliance actions were taken in response1. (Water New Zealand, 2022).

Digital technologies and data to improve productivity, innovate, and help us solve problems such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions (, 2022).

A host of legislative changes in 2023 including the Spatial Planning Act and National Built Environment Act. These legislative changes will introduce new ways of working that can be used to improve planning and standardisation across water service delivery.

An estimated 35% of all wastewater treatment plants require new consents in the next ten years, presenting an opportunity to improve consent effectiveness and reduce the estimated $100 million of associated consenting costs (GHD, Boffa Miskell, 2019).

Smart Buyer

It is estimated that $120-$185 billion will need to be invested in our water systems over the next 30 years. This is based on what is required to catch-up on decades of under-investment and continue to upgrade water infrastructure to meet health and environmental standards (Department of Internal Affairs, 2023).

Modelling from Deloitte has shown that over the next three years, a material increase in investment in the Three Waters sector could (Deloitte, 2021):

• Increase GDP by between $14 billion and $23 billion in present value terms.

• Grow tax revenue between $4 billion and $6 billion in present value terms.

• Generate an additional 5,849 to 9,260 full-time equivalent jobs.

• Lift average wages by between 0.16% and 0.26%.

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Te Mana o te Wai puts the health of water first, providing a new paradigm for water management. Centring the health of water at the heart of our ways of working, lives and communities engenders a concerted move from consumerism to stewardship. Lifelong, community and workforce education is a huge part of the move.

“By 2050, what needs to change is our relationship to wai. This is the key transformation we need, when this changes all the other transformations we want to see will follow.” Wellington workshop participant

All of our water bodies are healthy, the mauri of all waters is enhanced

‘Ka ora te wai, ka ora te whenua, ka ora ngā tāngata’. ‘If the water is healthy, the land is healthy, the people are healthy’. Healthy water bodies mean there is reduced risk of getting sick from unsafe drinking water or swimming or collecting mahinga kai. A holistic, catchment scale water cycle ki uta ki tai (source to sea) and mātauranga Māori informs our approach to improve water quality and quantity.

Mana whenua are active partners in cogovernance, co-management, co-design and codelivery

Tāngata whenua, as kaitiaki, play a strong role in local, specific place-based solutions for water service delivery. Tāngata whenua have been the kaitiaki of water over centuries and have built up a large body of mātauranga in the process. Trusting and equal partnerships between mana whenua and water services providers form the basis of harnessing mutually beneficial management approaches that deliver for water, for people and the environment.

“Te Mana o te Wai has to be front and centre, leading everything we do. We need to acknowledge it’s a journey and communities need to be comfortable using Te Mana o te Wai as part of their every day language.”

Hamilton workshop participant

Te Mana o te Wai is operationalised and informs all investment decisions, designs and standards

Te Mana o te Wai has been embedded into water service delivery. The water workforce’s understanding of what Te Mana o te Wai means informs business-as-usual activities such as project design, water allocation and sediment control in their takiwa (local area). Ki uta ki tai (source to sea) impacts are assessed intergenerationally (not over 10, 30, 50 years). Te Mana o te Wai sensitive solutions have replaced conventional, grey approaches. These opportunities have been realised alongside mana whenua, who are active members of the water workforce.

“Development of mātauranga Māori has been missing from our education system. Current and future generations need to understand Te Mana o te Wai.” Hamilton workshop participant

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Water is recognised and treated as a taonga. All of our water bodies are healthy, the mauri of all waters is enhanced.

Mana whenua are active partners in co-governance, co-management, codesign and co-delivery.


Te Mana o te Wai is operationalised and guides the way water services are delivered.

Respected interconnectedness between the natural world, spiritual realms and people.

Restoring the life capacity of the natural world and people (mauri ora).

Partnerships wisely manage te taiao and te wai.


Information base for culturally appropriate and respectful actions.

Protocols and practices for water management adhere to local tikanga.

Experiences, examples and success stories of integrating Te Mana o te Wai are shared through guidance and training.

Tikanga Māori used for engagement through wānanga and hui to strengthen relationships, trust and cooperation with mana whenua.

Iwi/hapū are empowered with knowledge and resources to participate in decision-making processes.

Mana whenua’s local knowledge of types of water, taonga species, flood history, culturally significant sites, is protected, shared as appropriate, and celebrated.

Cultural health performance measures in place to track progress implementing Te Mana o Te Wai.

Water service entities give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi in upholding rangatiratanga by employing power-sharing tools including joint management arrangements, transfer and delegations of powers.

Tools, models and processes that reflect Māori world view and integrate local knowledge are understood and used.

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Industry bodies Researcher institutes Industry training or standards bodies Councils Water service providers Other infrastructure providers Government departments Investors Tangata whenua Customers Regulatory bodies Water service supply chain Lead role in transformation

Protection of the awa, taonga species and other taonga-tuku-iho (cultural heritage and property handed down).


Mātauranga Māori and western science are integrated to inform holistic planning and delivery at catchment scales.

Kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face-to-face) interactions between policy makers and mana whenua encourage and strengthen better understanding and kotahitanga (unity).

GIS maps incorporate places of cultural significance.

Treaty principles, and waterway histories are embedded in learning curriculums and understood by all.

Piped streams are referred to by their traditional names, or given names under mana whenua guidance and provided ecological and cultural protections.

Mana whenua implement traditional rangatiratanga management techniques, for example, rāhui to protect Te Mana o te Wai.

Māori businesses are active participants in the water sector workforce and supply chain.

Data/information and stories collected inform policies and community decision making.

Mana whenua are resourced to have active roles in monitoring and compliance enforcement.

Mana whenua representation in all water entity decision-making bodies.

Water services workforce understands Te Mana o te Wai statements in their takiwā and their role in implementing them.

Mana whenua can access culturally significant sites for customary purposes.

Mahinga kai outcomes are consistently improving in all waterbodies.

Te Mana o te Wai principles are embedded in design and procurement decisions.

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Enshrining of Te Mana o te Wai – putting the health of the water first - into legislation has helped spur many councils into looking at how they will work with local iwi to meet their legal obligations.

One region that’s been working towards this is Te Tau Ihu (the top of the South Island). There, the eight iwi and three councils in Te Tau Ihu have been working to understand what Te Mana o te Wai means for them.

The development follows a long period of grievance and eventual treaty settlements as well as what’s been described as 30 years of animosity with the councils over the way they have handled issues around water. In 2014 iwi members ratified a Treaty of Waitangi settlement which included an apology for crown failures to adequately protect the iwi’s interests and lands, it also included cultural, financial and commercial redress.

The conversations provide an opportunity for the NRSBU to lift their understanding of the priorities of tangata whenua as kaitiaki of the region, with obvious benefits for all.

“This is a great pathway for us to demonstrate what Te Mana o te Wai means in wastewater. Making sure our non-negotiables are on the table. Things like protecting wahi tapu sites, ensuring water quality enables the harvest of mahinga kai, and things like cultural monitoring of areas.”

Listen to Nathan, Jenna and Aneika discuss their experiences developing a shared long-term vision for wastewater, on Water New Zealand’s Tāwara o Te Wai podcast, Developing Relationships with Iwi

Aneika Young, Poutohutohu Taiao Motueka lead

The treaty settlements created a set of tools that have helped iwi together with the Nelson Regional Sewerage Business Unit (NRSBU) to develop a long-term shared vision for wastewater in the region. The NRSBU is jointly owned by the Nelson City and Tasman District Councils. The scheme includes the Bell Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, which discharges to the Waimea inlet and application of biosolids to forestry blocks at Moturoa/Rabbit Island.

Historically, councils’ engagement with iwi on wastewater issues has focused on short-term tactical decisions, largely driven by resource consenting processes, often a source of frustration of both parties. The development of a shared aspiration provides the opportunity to shift the engagement into a strategic relationship, to help overcome issues with short-term decision making.

To understand more about what Te Mana o te Wai means for Ngā Iwi o Te Tauihu and the opportunities it holds for waterbodies in the rohe, read the Te Tauihu Case Study Report contributing to a nation-wide Te Mana o te Wai project commissioned by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge.

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“There is a shift and the tides are changing. The acknowledgement of what has happened, looking back is needed to look forward, be solutions focused and develop a culturally safe place to move forward”.
engagement adviser
“If we have a fifty or hundred year vision … every tactical decision we make today takes me closer to the future… we will still butt heads on short-term tactical issues… we have a really cool starting point for a long journey ahead.”
Nathan Clarke, Nelson Regional Sewerage Business Unit manager
Aneika Young, Poutohutohu Taiao Motueka lead engagement adviser


The water sector is a vocation of choice attracting and retaining valued and quality trained staff.

The need for developing capability and aligned training is understood by the water sector. Upskilling workers in ways that attract, retain, and grow the three waters workforce ensures the right people will be available in the right place, at the right time. Education initiatives also target the public, so all New Zealanders appreciate the value of water and their role in protecting it.

Awareness and interest in the water sector attracts education leavers to work in the water sector

Concerted effort to increase awareness and interest in the sector provides a vehicle to attract more people to work in water. Promoting the water sector to schools, colleges, and universities, joining career fairs, and showcasing the innovative work being done lifts the profile of the water sector for the public at large.

“People understand the value of water from day one, with their formal education beginning at primary school.” Hamilton workshop participant

Targeted education and training programmes upskill the future workforce

Education and training programmes tailored to the needs of the water sector ensure that the workforce has the necessary skills and knowledge to meet

industry demands. Addressing curriculum drivers and partnering with universities and vocational schools delivers programmes focused on waterrelated fields.

“Having apprenticeships and cadetships available to education leavers means they are able to step straight into roles in water” Wellington workshop participant.

A diverse workforce results in better outcomes

A diverse and inclusive workforce, reflective of the communities that it serves, brings varied perspectives and ideas to the sector, resulting in better outcomes. Implementing diversity and inclusion policies, partnering with organisations that focus on under-represented groups, and offering scholarships and internships provide pathways for under-represented groups to participate in the workforce.

Investment and collaboration supports research and innovation

Investment in education ensures the workforce has the skills and knowledge to keep up with the latest technology and innovation. Collaboration between the sector and research organisations, encouraging innovation within the sector, and investing in research delivers innovative approaches to issues.

Competitive compensation and benefits make Aotearoa water sector a career of choice

Competitive compensation and benefits packages help retain and grow a skilled workforce. Workplaces that are supportive of diversity, offer appropriate and competitive rates of pay, and provide opportunities for professional development and advancement, make the water sector a preferred career choice. International recruitment is balanced against support to grow local talent development.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 16
Educator Sirri teaches students at Pirongia school about their water, an initiative of Smart Water, a partnership between Hamilton City Council, Waipā District Council and Waitomo District Council.

Increase awareness and interest in the water sector. Develop targeted education and training programmes.


Encourage diversity and inclusion.


Vocation of choice. Clear pathways and training opportunities. Sector is inclusive and represents all of society.


Invest in research and innovation. Offer competitive compensation and benefits.

Sector is world leading and collaborates internationally.

Sector has a resilient workforce, attracting and retaining necessary skilled staff.

Attendance at careers fairs attracts education leavers to the sector.

A gap analysis of sector skills and capability identifies required recruitment and training needs.

Minority groups are supported and empowered increasing the diversity of workers and contractors working in water.

Collaboration between water sector and research institutes increases innovation.

Defined career pathways lead to increased recruitment and retention.

Promotion of role models through school programmes highlights opportunities to work in water and water stewardship.

Mentoring programmes provide knowledge transfer to new sector entrants and increase retention.

Increased training around Te Mana o te Wai, both for iwi and for tangata tiriti leading to shared visions of water management.

Funding for research and scholarships supports high quality research outcomes and provides pathways into the sector.

Remuneration and working conditions are matched to expertise increasing recruitment and retention.

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Industry bodies Researcher institutes Industry training or standards bodies Councils Water service providers Other infrastructure providers Government departments Investors Tangata whenua Customers Regulatory bodies Water service supply chain Lead role in transformation

Water education supported and promoted in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.

Apprenticeships are widely available to provide pathways into the sector.


Clear pathways are present for Māori in the water sector leading to increased recruitment.

New tertiary-based curriculum focusing on water underpins water research and facilitates international collaboration.

Continuing professional development accreditation/ chartered status developed fostering a continuous learning environment.

STEM events leveraged to provide challenging and fun opportunities for young people to understand water issues.

Competency frameworks and clear training pathways are available for workers to upskill.

Pathways for international labour to join the water sector.

National water school/ university is established to provide technical and operational training.

International secondments develop staff expertise and support adoption of international best practice.

Changes in the curriculum reflect water challenges and opportunities for stewardship.

Technical/hands-on training is readily accessible to a wide range of learners.

Scholarships are available to students from diverse backgrounds and attract new talent to the sector.

National centre of excellence is established to provide targeted high-quality, diverse training and research.

Emergency management training is available and widely used to ensure preparedness.

Mātauranga is sufficiently funded to allow iwi to meaningfully contribute to water management.

Key reports for the workforce sector include:

Ko wai tatau: We are water: The Water workforce development strategy developed by Waihanga Ara Rau, the Construction and Infrastructure development council. Five workstreams are underway - industry pathways, profiles and case studies, industry experiences, competency mapping and iwi workforce development.

A fair chance for all: Currently in draft form, this report from the Productivity Commission examines how whole of system changes have the potential to help those experiencing persistent disadvantage.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 18


The water sector is facing significant challenges in securing talented and committed employees. Attracting the estimated 6,000-9,000 additional employees needed, requires a new approach.

In 2023 Statistics New Zealand reported 102,000 people in New Zealand were unemployed2 and a further 175,000 are underutilised3. This group of people provides significant potential source of talented labour. The water sector is already partnering to provide employment opportunities for those in this group who may find it challenging to join the workforce. Expanding these programmes will help us address significant skills shortages, whilst addressing broader social challenges.

Ngā Puna Pukenga

Ngā Puna Pukenga, a skills for industry programme launched in 2019 as a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Social Development and Auckland Council. Fulton Hogan have joined as partners to support people into sustainable, full-time employment in the construction sector.

The programme aimed to create a more diverse workforce, specifically targeting Māori and Pacific job seekers, women, and people with disabilities, who traditionally face challenges in accessing and progressing in the construction industry.

Funding is provided by the Ministry of Social Development and the Auckland Council through the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and the Inclusion of social outcomes within Auckland Council supply contracts provide further support.

The Ngā Puna Pukenga team establish and maintain key industry relationships with employers, candidates, training providers and job seeker networks, facilitating sustainable employment opportunities. Employers and new employees agree a commitment to the living wage, ongoing training and mentorship. Flexible funding also suports other needs identified by employers and employees, such as obtaining driver licenses.

Since 2019 the programme has supported over 730 placements, however securing long-term funding to achieve the ambitious targets of the programme remains a challenge.

Ōpōtiki District Council

In Ōpōtiki funding provided by Ōpōtiki Council Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and the Ministry for Social Development is being used in partnership with local iwi to retain local youth, improve long-term local employment outcomes, and achieve wellbeing targets for local people.

Local iwi were clear about wanting to develop previously limited local employment opportunities for young people. Working with the Ministry of Social Development, iwi and the Ōpōtiki District Council developed a shared workforce development plan which laid out a pathway for local business growth.

The partnership model allows iwi to focus on wellbeing outcomes including wrap-around services while the council and employers are empowered to provide stable employment, mentorship and sector-focused training.

As the local water supplier, council has used its contracts to leverage support for the programme with local contractors. An ecosystem with buy in from multiple agencies and people across the community provides further employment support pathways, and funding is further utilised for equipment such as PPE and driver-licence training.



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Healthy waters support thriving ecosystems, regenerate and restore wider environments, and underpin the wellbeing of our communities and businesses.

Water networks support the restoration of natural and built environments

Nature-based solutions, integrated water management, and catchment planning are preferred alternatives to traditional “grey” infrastructure approaches. They provide habitat for native ecosystems, support green spaces that improve the liveability of our cities, and restore natural water cycles to avoid the worst impacts of flooding, heat waves and droughts.

Resource recovery plants are the norm, incorporation of recycled materials and end-of life design planning offsets virgin material use

Water and wastewater networks are rich in many resources. Reusing water, nutrients and energy, offsets traditional more greenhouse gas intensive fertilisers, energy supplies, and water sources, helping decarbonise across a range of sectors. A circular economy mindset that penalises waste opens opportunities for replacing virgin materials used in construction with recycled materials.

“We need intergenerational long-term thinking. Moving towards a circular economy means we are not just using our water more efficiently, but we’re looking at everything that makes up the water cycle and find ways of doing things smarter.“ Wellington workshop participant

Water and resources are used efficiently achieving net zero carbon

Water is a finite resource requiring energy and chemicals for transfer and treatment, which generate greenhouse gases. Wastewater also emits greenhouse gases directly. Reducing water lost through the network and improving energy efficiency improves water security and helps preserve environmental flows. Water use efficiency is one of a broad suite of tools employed to drive down greenhouse gas emissions from the water sector.

“The decision-making processes made in day-to-day life, how you use water, how you renovate your house, how you choose a place to live, water features in all of that thinking.”

Healthy water bodies support thriving ecosystems

Water takes, overflows, discharges, contaminants are managed to minimise harm and are overseen by enforced regulatory frameworks to safeguards against non-compliance events. Design and retrofit of new water infrastructure assets restores our water bodies to support thriving ecosystems, mahinga kai and societal wellbeing.

Services are resilient and adaptive to climate change and natural hazards

Forward planning, diversified supply chains and decentralised water networks strengthen our resilience against climate change, and help communities adapt to more gradual hazards such as drought and pandemics.

“Climate change is here and we need to bring it into all of our thinking.” Wellington workshop participant

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 20

Water networks support the restoration of natural and built environments.


Nature-based solutions and integrated water management provide the first point of call for new infrastructure development.

The water sector is an integral user and supplier of recovered resources in a circular economy.

Water and resources are used efficiently achieving net zero carbon.


Healthy water bodies support thriving ecosystems.

Services are resilient to climate change and natural hazards.

Stormwater harvesting and water storage requirements to support urban greening are integral to district planning processes.

Virgin materials are a last resort for construction, and decommissioned infrastructure is recovered for reuse. Resource recovery facilities have replaced sewage treatment plants.

The water sector is a net zero greenhouse gas producer. Water is used efficiently to ensure abstractions remain within sustainable environmental limits.


Water takes, overflows, discharges, and contaminants are governed by a management and regulatory framework that safeguards against non-compliance events.

Planning and design frameworks minimise vulnerability to hazards.

Excess heat, energy, and water pressure from water and wastewater networks are utilised.

All water service entities have carbon reduction baselines and corresponding carbon reduction targets, aligned with international commitments leading to net zero.

Community set levels of service are in place for all wet weather wastewater overflows.

Integrated emergency response plans outline roles and resources across agencies.

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Industry bodies Researcher institutes Industry training or standards bodies Councils Water service providers Other infrastructure providers Government departments Investors Tangata whenua Customers Regulatory bodies Water service supply chain Lead role in transformation

Frameworks for valuing and funding external benefits of water projects are in place.


Clear standards and guidelines are designed to encourage the uptake of alternative water supplies (i.e. greywater, rainwater, and recycled water).

Partnerships with fertiliser distributors harness nutrient recovery from wastewater and biosolids, offsetting chemical fertiliser use.

Water demand management strategies are in place for all water supplies to achieve average residential use of less than 150L/person/day.

Protocols are in place for evaluating the effectiveness of stormwater treatment devices.

Agreed climate change projections provide the basis for infrastructure design, models, and planning decisions.

Source separation enables reuse of greywater.

Treatment plants and pump operations are assessed and optimised against energy efficiency benchmarks.

Water takes are managed to support natural flow regimes.

Minimum impervious surface area and water storage are required for new developments.

Nature-based solutions are the preferred treatment approach for removing contaminants for wastewater and stormwater.

Partnerships with customers harness treated wastewater as a substitute for potable water.

Large and medium treatment plants employ advanced control systems to reduce energy and chemical use.

Culverts, dams and weirs are designed or retrofitted to allow easy fish passage.

Consistent, reliable information on flood-prone areas is available to developers and the public.

Daylighting of piped underground streams restores biodiversity and amenity of waterways.

Design and planning frameworks support repurposing of assets and minimise new material use.

Universal adoption of robust trade waste management to prevent discharge of persistent pollutants to sewer.

Supply chain disruptions minimised through diversified sourcing of international materials and local manufacturing.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 22

The Emissions Reduction Plan

The plan contains strategies, policies, and actions for achieving Aotearoa’s first emissions budget and contributing to global efforts to limit temperature rise. A wide array of milestones in this plan will be reached over the coming years, and a new Emissions Reduction Plan will be published by 2024. For more detail, see the Ministry for the Environment website


Ensuring adequate water supplies for our towns and cities into the future is essential to Aotearoa’s future prosperity. With the extent and frequency of drought increasing in various regions, and extreme events increasingly impacting water catchments, the risk to both the quantity and quality of our water supplies has been ranked as New Zealand’s most urgent climate risk.

Already water suppliers such as Wellington Water and Watercare have been taking steps to understand their drought preparedness and the investment required to operate at a drought level of service. However, drought resilience planning is not yet widespread across Aotearoa, and more must be done to ensure water supplies for all homes and businesses are resilient against drought.

The National Adaptation Plan

The National Adaptation Plan contains strategies, policies and actions that will help New Zealanders adapt to the changing climate and its effects so we can reduce the potential harm of climate change and seize the opportunities that arise. The plan will be implemented over the next six years, and the Climate Change Commission will report on the progress and effectiveness of the plan every two years from 2024. The plan is available on the Ministry for the Environment website

Frameworks to manage drought are not new, and there is an opportunity to learn from international approaches. For example, the UK Water Resources Planning Framework provides a set of tools that help water companies in the UK ensure planning and investment is adequate to meet specified drought levels of service.

Aotearoa New Zealand Waste Strategy

This Strategy presents the aspirations for a lowwaste Aotearoa that will guide our collective journey toward a circular economy. Action and investment plans will be reassessed every three years. For more detail, see the Ministry for the Environment website

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Water resources planning framework

Water use patterns are well understood

A framework for water supply and demand planning is developed for Aotearoa incorporating:

• Methods to define yield (at a stated drought Level of Service)

• Approaches to supply/demand planning that can be applied at different population scales

• Climate uncertainties in both supply and demand

• An understanding of source water health and requirement to give effect to Te Mana

Demand forecasts are universally adopted for water supplies and underpinned by robust understanding of;

• Historic annual demand including residential, non-residential and water loss components

• The effect of seasonal variation on peak demand and how consumption changes between a ‘normal’ year and one with drought conditions

• Expectations of good practice water efficiency

• The effect of population growth, climate change and other factors on future demand

• Regulations require water suppliers to determine existing and future targeted drought levels of service

• Customers have access to information on their drought level of service and understand water supply risks

Regulatory requirements for levels of service for managing drought

• Water suppliers have mechanisms in place for customers to influence risk versus investment in drought preparedness

• Pressure on receiving environments from water takes is understood and thresholds for action determined

Investment plans in place for

• Water supply management strategies, water efficiency, leakage reduction and metering

• Supply side options such as regional transfers and alternative water sources

Plans and investment in place to meet desired levels of service

• Drought management plans are in place for when levels of service are not met outlining thresholds for action (e.g. different levels of water restrictions and operational responses)

• Price-quality path overseen by the economic regulator confirms appropriate investment in water security

Drought resilience measures are implemented and funded

• Water supply demand strategies are operationalised

• Infrastructure developed to facilitate supply side options


• Desired risk thresholds for drought preparedness are met

• Water resource and drought plans are monitored, reviewed and updated on a regular basis

Source: Discussion with J Reed, and G Williams

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 24


Communities are stewards and active participants of water management with access to safe, equitable and affordable water services for all.

Safe and affordable water services are available to all New Zealanders

The health and wellbeing of our communities and businesses is underpinned by access to safe and affordable water supplies. All communities will have access to safe drinking water, including decentralised suppliers who are supported to ensure their water is safe. Infrastructure funding is carefully thought through to ensure affordable charges, incentivise efficient use, penalise pollution, and provide support for customers experiencing economic hardship or exposed to flood hazard.

Communities, and the workforce serving them, value water as a taonga

Protection of our water bodies is a shared responsibility that requires the co-operation of all; minimising water abstractions and protecting the environment from pollution will not be achieved by the water sector acting alone. Māori have long understood water to be a precious taonga over which they exercise kaitiakitanga. Engendering a similar appreciation within all New Zealanders would provide a paradigm shift so we all desire to celebrate, protect and restore our water environment.

“Kaitiakitanga gets blandly thought of as stewardship or guardianship but it’s more than that. It’s not only the way you care for something, it’s the way it cares for you. it’s the interaction, it’s not you doing something that’s out there.” John Reid, from the mutually binding nature of Kaitiakitanga (Smith, J., Hutchings, J., Taura, Y., & WhaangaSchollum, D., 2019)

Information on water services is transparent, timely and understood

Water service providers engender community cooperation though trusted relationships. This requires communities to have transparent, accessible, and easy to understand information about who delivers our water services and how. Empowering communities with knowledge on risks, costs and benefits of different water service delivery options enables them to participate in decision making and contribute to stewardship of the water environment.

“Not all communities are the same. How you communicate with them needs to be tailored to improve transparency and their understanding of what we do.”

Hamilton workshop participants

Empowered communities have strong relationships with water utilities to drive decisions based on their particular needs

No two communities have the same water environment, challenges or values. The National Policy Statement of Freshwater Management 2020 provides a clear mechanism for tangata whenua and communities to articulate visions and objectives for their waterways. Giving effect to these communities aspirations needs to be at the heart of water services operations. By ensuring local knowledge informs water services delivery, communities will receive services that are the best fit for them.

“Health and wellbeing of water equals the health and wellbeing of communities. We are talking about a changed relationship between people and their communities having a changed relationship with water. They have a changed view of water, driven by increased literacy. Changing how people value water will drive the changes in how people behave.”

Hamilton workshop participant

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Empowered communities drive decisions around water services.


Communities, and the workforce serving them value water as a taonga.

Safe and affordable water services are available to all New Zealanders.


Trusted service providers.

Communities and tangata whenua have strong relationships with water services entities to drive decisions based on their particular needs.

Local people deliver local services, with the water sector workforce reflecting the diversity of the communities they serve.

Everyone understands their role in contributing to Te Mana o te Wai.

Fair charges, support mechanisms are in place for vulnerable customers.


Mechanisms are in place to assess community water literacy, with associated campaigns targeted at gaps.

Water service entities have responsive systems in place for developers, individuals or communities wishing to connect to municipal supplies.

Information on water services is transparent, timely and understood.

Regulations articulate what levels of service are required to be set by water utilities.

Water service entities have processes to harness community knowledge and understand community values and aspirations.

Sustained public education campaigns for consumers and businesses lift awareness of the importance of our water bodies and the role we all play in water management.

Everyone has access to safe drinking water, and sanitation including unconnected customers who are adequately resourced to ensure safety.

Information on costs, benefits, risks of levels of service options is available to communities in plain language to determine trade-offs.

Lead role in transformation

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 26
Industry bodies Researcher institutes Industry training or standards bodies Councils Water service providers Other infrastructure providers Government departments Investors Tangata whenua Customers Regulatory bodies Water service supply chain

Staff with background in social science disciplines are employed in water service entities to harness community knowledge and aspirations.


Public are educated to understand flood risks, and associated safe behaviours.

Charges and incentives encourage water reuse and conservation, and penalise non-compliance events and excess water use.

Performance, consent and compliance reporting is easily available in the public domain.

Small water suppliers, onsite wastewater operators, papakainga and marae are supported to ensure supplies are safe and protect the environment.

Community involvement in water management is encouraged e.g. through cleaning waterways, citizen science, and incident reporting.

Affordability benchmarks for water services are established based on communities’ ability to pay.

Real-time water quality and swimming information is available for all popular recreation areas.

Deliberate and participative democracy processes inform major decisions on water services provision.

Public spaces and amenities showcase their natural water environment and water infrastructure.

Vulnerable customers are identified and supported through targeted financial assistance.

Embodied and operational water use of products is available for consumer goods and enforced with minimum standards for appliances.

Water and wastewater charges are equitable across regions.

Individuals and businesses have access to smart water meters with real time water usage.

Agreed principles and funding are in place to reduce flood risk, or retreat from flood-prone areas.

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Citizens’ assemblies create fair and representative conditions for everyday people to come together and propose solutions to complex problems. The process provides one way of overcoming the short-term nature of electoral cycles, and bridging the gap between public opinion and public judgment – the difference in someone’s views when they haven’t had much time to consider the issue, compared with when they are fully informed and have had time.

In 2022, Watercare and University of Auckland’s Centre for Informed Futures, Koi Tū, came together to host a citizens’ assembly that sought to answer what the next source of water for Auckland should be, post-2040. At the same time the process explored how to make deliberative democracy consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi and rights of mana whenua whilst also recognising the multicultural nature of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Throughout 2022, 37 Aucklanders, selected to represent the diverse communities of Tāmaki Makaurau, came together for three online sessions and four in-person full days over two months. Independent experts provided information so the assembly could understand the complexity of this issue and the different water source options. They deliberated over the question and a consensus emerged, with the assembly recommending recycled (direct) water as the next source of water for Auckland.

Watercare’s leadership team participated in the assembly, providing a clear understanding and accountability to the recommendations. The Board’s response accepted all of the assembly’s recommendations, and included a range of operational, regulatory, research, community engagement and resourcing commitments.

There are many complex challenges water services will need to work with on their communities; fair approaches to water allocation, retreat from hazard prone areas, and trade-offs between cost, resilience and environmental protection. Citizen assemblies offer water service providers and their stakeholders a route to address these questions, that harnesses the knowledge of our communities to arrive at the optimal decision, in an equitable and transparent way.

The assembly’s recommendations, Watercare’s response and further resources from the citizens’ assembly are available online on Watercares website.

The process and lessons learnt, and how deliberative democracy was localised for an Aotearoa New Zealand context, is covered in a Koi Tū case study report, Citizens’ assembly on the next source of water for Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 28

Build workforce capacity to undertake citizens’ assemblies

• Develop awareness of citizens’ assembly process amongst water suppliers

• Upskill workforce to facilitate citizens’ assembly process

• Involve practitioners who can work across te ao Māori and te ao pakeha to further develop Te Tiriti honouring assemblies

Develop citizens’ assemblies into business as usual decision making

• Evolve processes for co-ordinating citizens’ assemblies that are appropriate for a variety of scales

• Embed consultation into planning activities, long term servicing strategies, wastewater network strategies, asset management plans etc

Collaborate with suppliers to develop actions across multi-stakeholder groups

• Other complex issues facing the water sector prioritised

• Ownership and roles of complex challenges

• Relationships with stakeholder where multi-issues exist

Integration into decisionmaking processess

• Ensure adequate structures and resources, including funding, staff, and logistical support are included in business plans

• Policies in place to ensure decisions outcomes of the assembly are acted on with transparency so that the public can see how organisations are enacting recommendations

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Participants in Watercares citizens assembly deliberate on future water sources for Auckland.


Trusted data sources underpin digital analytics and platforms to enhance customer value.

Improved customer experience and public value

Two-way customer/utility relationships are empowered through technology, building community trust in water service providers. Technologies such as smart phone apps, websites and social media provide customisable information to connect service providers with their communities. Crowd-sourcing community knowledge informs water utilities of local conditions for example, water leaks, flood-prone locations, and water quality, supporting service providers to respond to issues promptly.

Digital twins provide tools to predict and prepare for the future

Digital twins provide a virtual replica of realworld water assets, networks, and systems. 3D models are utilised in design and construction, for example determining pipe alignments that avoid other underground services. Digital twins draw on multiple data-sets to analyse asset performance to inform renewal programmes and operations. System models support understanding of how services respond to various scenarios, such as extreme rainfall, improving planning processes.

Integration across information silos enhances decision making

Common platforms, data standards, and protocols for sharing of water-related data-sets across agencies provide a single source of truth to inform decisions. Appropriate safeguards are in place to protect privacy and guard against cyberthreats, whilst still providing the benefits of open and accessible data.

Trusted and comprehensive data sets available to inform decision making

Reliable and comprehensive data-sets create the underpinning for all digital solutions. Comprehensive data-sets are established by: drawing together legacy data-sets; developing efficient modes for data collection in the field; and using technology to plug gaps in knowledge. Appropriate metadata and data standards support understanding of the data’s reliability. Communication technology is widely deployed, with redundancy in place for emergencies.

Harnessing digital solutions to boost employee productivity and wellbeing

Digital solutions play a crucial role in enhancing workforce productivity and reducing health and safety risks. Technology replaces workers in high-risk activities; for example inspections in confined spaces or at heights are conducted using robot mounted cameras. Communications and telemetry networks enable remote working, improving efficiency and lone worker safety. Electronic platforms improve connection across organisations, breaking down organisational silos. Deployment of these solutions is underpinned in investment in a digitally literate workforce.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 30

Improved customer experience and public value. Digital twins provide tools to predict and prepare for the future.


Integration across information silos enhances decision making.


Trusted and comprehensive data-sets are available to inform decision making.

Digital solutions are harnessed to boost workforce productivity and wellbeing.

Digital platforms provide customers easy access to information and support.

Design, construction and renewals are supported by digital models.

A water data ecosystem is supported by common platforms, protocols, and rules for sharing data-sets.


All assets, their characteristics and associated meta data are captured in GIS and asset management systems.

A digitally literate workforce. High-risk activities are automated.

Easy access to information is available on water use, water quality, charges and service provider performance.

Predictive analysis and automation leverage asset data to optimise renewal and maintenance programmes.

Data governance and access frameworks balance data security and privacy against the benefits of open data.

Consolidation of existing data and legacy data-sets into comprehensive asset management systems.

Education programmes are in place to support workers to implement digital solutions.

Customer interaction is supported through use of digital web-tools, apps, and gamification.

Real-time measurements of water quality, and quantity are available to support decision making.

Cybersecurity threats are understood and mitigated against.

Stocktake of existing data and metadata provides information on where improvements are needed.

Communication with lone and remote workers is established via digital platforms.

Robust user friendly communication channels are in place for emergencies.

Urban resilience and city planning are supported by validated models of water availability and flooding.

Comparable data is supported by data standards and a platform for their upkeep.

Backup communications are in place for critical infrastructure in emergencies.

Digitised guidance and SCADA controls make information accessible to field workers.

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Industry bodies Researcher institutes Industry training or standards bodies Councils Water service providers Other infrastructure providers Government departments Investors Tangata whenua Customers Regulatory bodies Water service supply chain Lead role in transformation

Real-time water quality is available in all high useareas, including telemetry of stormwater and wastewater outfalls and overflows.


3D GIS and virtual reality help optimise design of major infrastructure and visualise spatial relationships to avoid conflicts with other underground services.

Water-related data-sets are fed into open data portals to support decision making.

Continually upgradeable systems provide for continuity of data and integration of legacy data-sets.

Digital alternatives replace workers in high-risk inspection activities such as working at heights, in confined spaces or sewer dives.

Digital platforms crowd source citizen science to provide local understanding of floodprone locations, water leaks, ecological health etc.

GIS integrate data, such as aerial imagery, LiDAR, utility records, and geotechnical surveys, to improve flood risk understanding.

3D asset models are shared by all stakeholders across the infrastructure delivery life cycle.

Mobile GIS apps enable field workers to upload data as maintenance is undertaken.

Institutional knowledge is documented via digital solutions breaking down information silos.

Common geo-spatial platforms provide consistent high-quality flood and hazard maps for all areas.

Automation of treatment plant operations using artificial intelligence and monitoring.

Common GIS- platforms across utilities, and contractors improve management of underground assets.

Geophysical techniques including ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction map underground utilities missing from GIS.

Gamification of work tasks and training modules boosts employee productivity and safety.

Smart water meters integrated with home technology, and dynamic pricing structures drive efficient water use.

Blockchain technology provides supply chain transparency, and traceability, for resources recovered from wastewater.

Pipe condition analysis based on CCTV is automated using artificial intelligence.

Full cellular network coverage allows for live monitoring of equipment in remote locations.

The Digital Strategy for Aotearoa

This strategy has been developed to guide towards a vision that Aotearoa New Zealand will flourish and prosper in a digital world. It highlights a broad range of work underway, and further opportunities to build Mahi Tika (Trust), Mahi Tahi (Inclusion), and Mahi Ake (Growth). A corresponding Action Plan lays out 11 flagship initiatives over a five-year road map that will be reviewed and refreshed annually. For more detail, see the Digital Government website

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 32


Flooding events occur suddenly, change rapidly, and can affect large geographical areas, meaning it is generally not feasible for authorities to always have personnel on the ground. Crowd-sourcing allows for a more comprehensive visual understanding of the extent and severity of flooding in different areas, that is already being leveraged to build our understanding of local flooding impacts.

At NZ flood pics, individuals are able to upload their photos to a national geospatial photographic flooding archive of flood events across Aotearoa. The website and a supporting SmartPhone app hosted by NIWA, collate photographs from floods that support evidence-based decision-making for individuals, communities, iwi, hapu, public and private sector organisations affected by flooding.

Earlier this year, Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Anniversary floods wreaked havoc on Auckland. Auckland Council also saw the potential of crowd sourcing flood pics. To provide a secure platform that allows the public to share flood photos, videos and stories. Auckland Council partnered with Lynker Analytics to create The platform allows for videos and batches of photos to be uploaded, and users can consent to have their photos publicly shared via flood pics.

Already, crowd-sourced flood images are being used to understand where and why significant flooding issues occurred, to validate flood models, and prioritise where work is needed to prepare for future events.

The security solutions and platform provided by could be easily replicated in communities across Aotearoa to better prepare for floods, uplift community voice and provide a direct connection between utilities and customers.

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Flood pics provides an online repository for crowd sourced photos from around New Zeanand

Establish governance framework

Develop data security and privacy framework Deploy the repository around Aotearoa

• Socialise the business case and opportunity with key stakeholders

• Develop a user steering group to oversee development of a national repository

• Secure partner and funding commitment for development of tools

• Develop operating principles that balance the benefits of open data against inappropriate use and protect privacy

• Integrate appropriate technologies into the platform

• Socialise the resource with the general public

• Establish frameworks for ongoing data upkeep and hosting

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 34


Coordinated and consistent national legislation, policy frameworks and requirements facilitating locally led service delivery.

National legislative frameworks enable commonality whilst allowing for local differences

National frameworks, strategies, policies, standards, and specifications are in place that allow for local variability. They provide consistency across design, delivery and management of water services bringing clarity and confidence in water services and facilitating knowledge sharing. Increased consistency results in improved access to low-cost capital optimising funding outcomes.

“We need alignment between regulators, both at a national and local level, to bring about an integrated approach to regulation and standards.” Hamilton workshop participant

Integrated spatial (land, environment and infrastructure) place-based planning

Holistic intergenerational, catchment scale, coordination of infrastructure and land use planning protects the water environment, property, and public heath. Water services are seamlessly integrated into the urban form, supporting the natural water cycle, ecosystems and providing amenity and enjoyment.

Standardised approaches facilitate service improvements

Agreed standards are in place for water services and their supply chain, providing customers and regulators with assurance that minimum quality standards are met. Adoption of standardised approaches around New Zealand reduces duplication and improves compatibility. Standardisation facilitates performance improvement by providing consistent metrics for benchmarking and subsequently enhancing processes. Reducing duplication and enhanced performance efficiency leads to improved environmental outcomes and reduced costs for consumers.

Planning frameworks prioritises water sensitive urban design

Integrating water sensitive urban design into all new developments and renewals programmes brings about a gradual transition to water sensitive spaces and cities. This lowers water use, minimises flood risk, improves water quality, supports biodiversity and improves the liveability of our towns and cities.

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Te Awarua-o-Porirua Harbour, looking towards Porirua City, where district planning processes have been informed by flood models incorporating future climate projections.

National legislative frameworks enable commonality whilst allowing for local difference.


Integrated spatial (land, environment and infrastructure) place-based planning.

Standardised approaches facilitate service improvements.


Planning frameworks prioritise water sensitive urban design.

Policy and regulatory settings are forward looking, adaptable, fit for purpose, and value innovation and continuous improvement.

Communities and resources wellbeing enhanced by taking a co-ordinated, future focused approach to land use planning.

Consistent standards, regulatory instruments, industry codes and guidance.


New developments are hydraulically neutral, and renewals works prioritise green infrastructure approaches.

Alignment across regulators provides an efficient and comprehensive compliance and enforcement approach across the country.

Onsite wastewater systems are audited to ensure they adequately protect the environment and public health.

Funding is provided for the maintenance of existing technical standards and development of new standards.

Consents are extended to cover all existing wet weather wastewater overflow and stormwater network discharges.

Cohesion between legislation drives water service delivery (Spatial Planning Act, National Built Environment Act, Building Act, Water Services Legislation and Emergency Management Act).

New developments designate land use zones for stormwater retention, flooding, and future sea level rise. Provisions are made for progressive managed retreat in existing hazard prone areas.

Standardised consent conditions (abstraction, allocation, limits, discharges) streamline consenting processes.

Maintenance procedures are in place and regularly followed for all green infrastructure.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 36
Industry bodies Researcher institutes Industry training or standards bodies Councils Water service providers Other infrastructure providers Government departments Investors Tangata whenua Customers Regulatory bodies Water service supply chain Lead role in transformation

Water service entities are accountable for environmental outcomes set in consultation with communities under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.


Mātauranga Māori informs catchment scale plans, facilitating a holistic approach to land and water management.

Consistent trade waste management frameworks for industry (effluent quality, volumes, contaminant loads) drive cleaner production.

Low impact developments require stormwater to be managed at source and rainwater collected for beneficial use.

Performance, cost, asset, and industrial water-use benchmarking provide platforms for performance improvement.

Dynamic adaptive planning pathways support flexible approaches for managing water availability and other risks.

Design and construction Codes of Practice and specifications have consistency across regions reducing duplication and improving efficiency.

Development codes provide for groundwater replenishment and quality improvements through requirements for natural processes (e.g. infiltration trenches, porous pavement).

Strong compliance and enforcement regimes are in place, incentivising compliance with the ability to revoke consents in extenuating circumstances.

New developments require compact development with vegetation and impervious surface requirements that are hydraulically neutral.

Design, construction, engineering specifications standards and developer codes for water sensitive urban design and green infrastructure support its adoption.

Development and renewals are used to re-naturalise stream paths to improve erosion control and prevent flooding.

Robust regulations incentivising sound land management practices safeguard source waters.

Water assets such as reservoirs, stormwater retaining basins, and wastewater wetlands are multifunctional providing for recreational and environmental amenity.

Standardised levels of service are required to be developed by water service entities, with services levels set by the community.

Decentralised water supply systems, such as rainwater harvesting and sewer mining are supported by legislation.

Minimum water efficiency, reuse and stormwater retention standards are specified for all new homes and businesses.

Planning frameworks are sensitive to water supply constraints and prioritise alternative water supply options where possible.

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Porirua’s District Plan takes a risk-based approach to all natural hazards. This means rules ensuring land-use planning and development occurs outside high hazard areas.

Floods are New Zealand’s most frequent and most significant natural hazard. Climate change is increasing frequency and intensity of storm events. Along with growth and intensification of our urban environment, all increase the risk of flooding to property, livelihoods, and public safety.

Private property and landowner decisions can impact on flooding; building in known hazard areas, and homeowner landscaping – e.g. fences. Risks can be minimised through the use of local land-use controls and design standards that avoid building on flood plains, protect overland flow paths, and require watersensitive design.

In developing their District Plan, Porirua City strengthened the accountabilities, regulation and policy between the management and operation of stormwater systems and land-use planning, and development.

A District Plan tells us what we can build, what activities we can do and where we can do them. To meet legislative requirements, it must also address risks to keep communities safe and to protect the local environment. This includes understanding areas that could be at risk of flooding and to manage those risks.

To understand the flood risks, and make appropriate rules in the District Plan, Wellington Water developed flood hazard models to understand areas in Porirua likely to be affected by a storm with a one percent annual exceedance probability. The models, based on best practice flood modelling standards, consider the predicted impacts of climate change to 2120, allowing for sea-level rise of 1m and predicted increase in rainfall intensity and volume of 20%.

The resulting flood maps shows three high hazard types- localised inundation areas (for flooding predicted to be greater than 50mm), overland flow paths and stream corridors.

The stream corridor has been allowed a buffer of five metres either side of the stream. This includes most significant paths of flooding and allows for erosion of the stream banks, as well as access for maintenance.

Overland flow paths carry water from the catchment during heavy rain when the pipe network is overwhelmed or blocked. Porirua’s overland flowpaths were identified, modelled and mapped, drawing on historic records and accounting for depth and speed of flood waters.

These flood maps have been incorporated into Porirua City Council’s District Plan alongside policies that ensure development does not occur in the high hazard areas or close to stream corridors. In areas at lower risk of inundation, the rules require residential floor levels to be above the 100-year flood level.

By improving understanding of flood events the maps will help plan pro-active infrastructure interventions and proactively plan for emergency response, reducing the impact of future storms on the Porirua community.

Information on the process the council has undertaken to understand flood risk in Porirua and the maps created as a result are available here.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 38


Productive, progressive, inclusive, sustainable, and climate-resilient procurement and delivery.

Social and environmental outcomes are driven through procurement

The water sector can be agents for change along the supply chain by exercising social and environmental responsibility in procurement. This includes factoring the wider environmental costs and benefits of projects to all phases of the project life cycle and making sure that structures optimise the triple bottom line performance of projects, contractors and suppliers.

“We need to genuinely understand whole of life costs in procurement decisions. The planning around this needs to be really robust.” Wellington workshop participant

Future-focused and collaborative procurement frameworks lead to certainty, unlocking efficiencies in the supply chain

Collaborative procurement and contracting processes support market engagement, foster competition, and innovation, resulting in better solutions. Transparent, long-term capital projections create an enabling environment for supplier and contractor investment, fostering the resilience and expertise of the supply change.

“Scale creates certainty when it comes to procurement. Harmonising scale, through standardised designs and supplier agreements allows suppliers to unlock their own investments to bring benefits to customers.”

Christchurch workshop participant

Local skills and decentralised systems lead to supply chain resilience

Water services delivered using local contractors, including iwi-led businesses, contributes to community resilience, particularly in more remote locations. Local resilience is further enhanced by support for decentralised systems, which also allow for customer choice and better environmental outcomes.

Ideation to implementation pathways unlock innovations and new technologies

Research and development inform new treatment methods, non-asset solutions to water delivery, and digital innovations. There is a clear point of entry for sector innovation, with the appropriate specialised support and funding to facilitate, promote, and support research, education, and training relating to water services.

“We need water service entities to sew up their supply chain, not so they are beholden to a single supplier, but create partnerships that can support intellectual property generation.”

Wellington workshop participant

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Hunua tunnel boring machine

Social and environmental outcomes are driven through procurement.


Future-focused and collaborative frameworks lead to certainty, unlocking efficiencies in the supply chain.

Local skills and decentralised systems support supply chain resilience.


Ideation to implementation pathways unlock innovations and new technologies.

Investment achieves equitable, multiple and improved social and environmental outcomes.

Collaborative, integrated and intelligent sector procurement and contracting (client, engineer, supplier + supply chain) leads to lower costs.

Local expertise and supply chains support delivery of services, which can draw on a range of water sources.


An enabling structured, supported pathway for collaborative partnerships for business, research and innovationidentify new opportunities and tools.

External benefit accounting framework facilitates service delivery investments that contribute to broader wellbeing objectives.

Water service entities have adopted all of government procurement guidelines (supported by regulation).

Targets for local suppliers and contractors in procurement lifts local incomes and improves resilience.

A sector levy funds the establishment of a sector innovation platform, providing a pathway to move new technologies into implementation.

Environmental product declarations are used to guide material and product selection.

Improved asset valuation and depreciation methods provide investors and capital markets with confidence in water service entities, opening access to low interest capital.

Investment in local capability building and rangatahi, iwi/hapu businesses.

Innovation platform provides structured pathways for entrepreneurs and academics to engage with water service entities.

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 40
Industry bodies Researcher institutes Industry training or standards bodies Councils Water service providers Other infrastructure providers Government departments Investors Tangata whenua Customers Regulatory bodies Water service supply chain Lead role in transformation

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council (ISCA) certification is required for large projects.


Alliancing and early contractor involvement in projects harnesses knowledge from the supply chain.

Local depots in all metropolitan areas support fast response times, local delivery and resilience to emergencies.

Innovation platform provides a vehicle for harnessing international best practice.

Lowest whole of life costs and environmental impacts determine procurement decisions.

Water services entities are required to provide information under Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures reporting.

Workflow certainty is achieved through transparent long-term asset plans, and smoothed capital allocation programmes creates an enabling environment for suppliers and contractors to invest.

Customers can choose from decentralised alternative water supply options, such as recycled water standpipes and sewer mains.

In-situ pipe rehabilitation, and adoption of trenchless technologies minimise environmental costs.

Embodied emissions and environmental impacts of water use are communicated to customers.

Long-term supply contracts provide continuity to both utility and supplier operations.

Integrated planning and delivery with other infrastructure providers keep disruption and costs to community to a minimum.

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An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a communication tool based on a products Life Cycle Assessment. EPDs provide independently verified information on the environmental impacts of products available in the public domain.

An EPD documents the impacts involved in making a product (e.g. extracting the raw materials, manufacturing the product, transporting the product to market), and depending on its scope, when customers use and dispose of or recycle the product as well.

Environmental impacts take many forms. For example, at one or more stages of its life cycle, a product may result in carbon or emissions that pollute air and waterways and deplete natural resources like water and land. These are all considered within the EPD.

Utilising EPDs during planning and design provides water service providers with information on environmental impacts that can enable more holistic decision making, as well as a platform to partner with and reward suppliers who can help them jointly progress towards sustainability goals.

Greenhouse gas targets have become a particular driver for water service providers to use EPDs. Emissions reduction targets, and awareness of carbon embodied in water sector construction is increasingly commonplace. Environmental Product Declarations provide a helpful tool in taking the important next steps towards decarbonising.

As the number of EPDs available grows, water service providers will be able to select materials based on their greenhouse gas and broader environmental impact. Already there are EPDs available for a range of common products used in water infrastructure construction, including concretes, pipes and aggregates.

EPDs are useful not only for their customers but for manufacturers as well. The development of an EPD provides insights into production processes that allow them to target improvements to reduce the environmental impact of their products.

Decarbonisation, and environmental impacts right the way along the supply chain, will be critical for ensuing the water sector achieves climate mitigation targets, and broader environmental goals.

To learn more about how water service providers are using EPDs, as well as their suppliers’ experiences developing them, visit the Water New Zealand webinar page. This two part webinar provides an introduction to EPDs and how they can be used.

To find Environmental Product Declarations from across Australasia visit:

Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 42


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Lombana Cordoba, Camilo, Gustavo Saltiel, and Federico Perez Penalosa. (2022). Utility of the Future, Taking Water and Sanitation Utilities Beyond the Next Level. A Methodology to Ignite Transformation in Water and Sanitation Utilities.World Bank, Washington, DC.

Ministry for the Environment. (2012, September 1). Our Freshwater 2023. Retrieved from Ministry for the Environment:

Pacific Water and Wastewater Association. (2021). Annual Report. Apia: PWWA.

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Statistics New Zealand. (2018). General Social Survey 2018: Final content. Retrieved from Statistics New Zealand:

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Towards 2050: Transformation vision for the water sector 44
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Blenheims wastewater treatment wetlands combine wastewater treatment facility, public walkways, and a thriving estuarine wetland teeming with bird life.
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