Right now, some big reforms are shaping up to overhaul the way our water services work in Aotearoa.
For too long, our leaders haven't invested enough in our water infrastructure or maintained our systems properly – leading to headlines of burst pipes, unsafe drinking water and massive bills.
The Government has committed to reforms to try to address these issues. We believe these reforms are necessary, and we strongly believe urgent action is needed.
With change now on the table, we have an opportunity to make sure it's change for the better. To make sure that happens, we're calling for union members' voices to be at the centre of the decisions that get made.
PSA advocacy on the water reform legislation
The legislation for water reform has been introduced in stages. The first bill – the Water Services Entities Bill - was introduced and passed in 2022. Two more bills – the Water Services Legislation Bill and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill – are currently before Parliament.
Water Services Legislation Bill
The PSA worked with other unions in the sector to make a joint submission on the Water Services Legislation Bill.
In our submission we reiterated that want to see the delivery of public services stay in public hands, and we called for subsidiaries of Water Services Entities to be providers of good jobs.
We also said we want water to be priced in a way that ensures everyone (especially low-income and vulnerable people) have equitable access to water services.
You can read a copy of the submission here.
Water Services Entities Bill
The PSA sent in three submissions to the Select Committee on this Bill. These submissions were based on member feedback through surveys and workshops from late 2021 through mid 2022.
Here are some of the key things we've said in our submissions on the Bill:
- The current system is not meeting the needs of our communities, and it needs reform if it is to meet the needs of communities into the future. This reform is an opportunity to fix this.
- We support a governance model with equal seats at the decision-making table for Māori.
- Workers' voices need to have a safe avenue for feedback and input into the decisions being made in the reform.
- We support safeguards against privatisation and contracting out of our water services, and want to see strong public service provision.
- As well as retaining their employment, workers transitioning to the new system should retain or improve all their current entitlements.
- Workers' terms and conditions should be standardised across the Water Services Entitites.
- We support public participation in the direction of how water services are run.
You can read each of our Select Committee submissions in full here:
- PSA submission (July 2022)
- Local Government Sector Committee submission (July 2022)
- Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina submission (July 2022)
Changes to the reforms will require new legislation
The Government’s latest proposal has increased the number of entities and delayed the timeframe for the reforms. This will require changes to legislation that's already passed through parliament. We'll make submissions on any legislation changes to advocate for workers' best interests.
PSA advocacy on the transition process for workers
In addition to providing feedback on the legislation, the PSA and other unions have also been talking regularly with the National Transition Unit at the Department of Internal Affairs to make sure workers' voices are represented in the transition process.
In 2022 the PSA submitted input on behalf of PSA members on proposed transition guidelines released by the Transition Unit. In our submission we said that our members want:
- Suitable work, or alternative options
- No loss of terms and conditions
- Stability in people's working location
- A fair process for people eligible for preferential consideration
- Clear, transparent information throughout the process.
Our submission on the transition guidelines can be read in full here:
The final guidelines are expected to be released in early 2023. In the meantime you can read the feedback report and a summary of change on Te Rapunga.
Where you can get more information about the reforms
Four national unions in the water services and infrastructure sector have come together to form a group called Water Workers, working together to ensure that the Government’s water reforms suit the needs of the affected workers, the wider community, and generations to come.
The Water Workers NZ website at waterworkers.nz will link you to information from the unions supporting workers in the sector, no matter which union you're covered by, or if you're not part of a union at all. It will also help you work out which union is right for you if you're interested in joining.
Waterworkers.nz also contains some FAQs about the reforms.
The Staff Room
The Staff Room is an site created by the National Transition Unit (based in the Department of Internal Affairs) for workers affected by the water reforms. It's a secure login section of their Te Rapunga website for water services staff.
It's the best way to make sure you're informed on all the up-to-date information from the Government about what's happening and what it means for your job. It's also the best way for the Transition Unit to get accurate information about who you are and what work you do, so they can make the right decision about whether and how your job transfers to one of the new Water Services Entities.
If you work in water services you should have received an invitation to join The Staff Room. If you haven't, visit Te Rapunga to find out more info and/or contact the Transition Unit.