Frequently asked questions
What is Taumata Arowai?
Taumata Arowai is the new water services regulator for Aotearoa. We’re the regulator of drinking water, with an oversight role in relation to wastewater and stormwater systems. Taumata Arowai is a standalone Crown entity with a Minister-appointed Board. Alongside the independent Board is a Māori Advisory Group (Te Puna) which advises on Māori interests and knowledge.
Is Taumata Arowai part of the Government’s Three Waters reforms?
The establishment of a dedicated water service regulator (Taumata Arowai) is the first of three pou (pillars) of the Government’s Three Waters Reform programme. The second pou is the Water Services Act 2021, which provides the legislative framework for reforms. The third pou is service delivery reform, which proposes to transfer management of large water supplies from councils to four regional entities.
Is Taumata Arowai involved in the Three Waters reform programme plan to transfer water assets from councils to four new entities?
No. Taumata Arowai is not involved in the creation of new regional water entities or the shift of functions from local authorities to them. Our role is to regulate rather than to determine any future changes to the water supply delivery system. We’ll work with drinking water suppliers in whichever form they take.
When did Taumata Arowai become the regulator?
Taumata Arowai became the water services regulator on 15 November 2021 when the Water Services Act 2021 came into force. Up until that date, the Ministry of Health was the drinking water regulator, administering provisions in the Health Act 1956.
Why is change necessary?
Every year an estimated 34,000 people across Aotearoa become ill from their drinking water, and many thousands of households must boil their water to drink it safely. The creation of Taumata Arowai is part of the government’s response to an inquiry into the Havelock North drinking water contamination which resulted in up to 8,320 campylobacteriosis illnesses and at least four deaths. The inquiry found systemic failures that mean many people do not receive reliable, safe drinking water and recommended the creation of a new drinking water regulator.
What does Taumata Arowai do?
Taumata Arowai sets standards and makes sure that drinking water suppliers are satisfying their duty to provide safe drinking water. We’ll also monitor and report on the environmental performance of wastewater and stormwater networks from 2023.
What does Taumata Arowai mean?
The name Taumata Arowai was gifted to us by Minister Nanaia Mahuta. It conveys the weight, responsibility and authority of us as a regulator. Taumata is a term associated with a summit, symposium or congress. Taumata invokes a sense of protection, leadership and wisdom. Aro means to give attention to, to focus on, or be in the presence of. Wai is water.
What is the Water Services Act?
The Water Services Act 2021 provides a new regulatory approach for drinking water. It gives Taumata Arowai a legal framework and tools which we can use to regulate the water services sector and improve its performance. Most of its provisions commenced on 15 November 2021.
What role will Public Health Units play in the regulation of drinking water?
Public Health Units (PHUs) will continue to play an important role in protecting public health. We’ll work closely with PHU staff, particularly during drinking water incidents and events.
What are the consequences if a drinking water supply does not comply?
Taumata Arowai has a number of regulatory tools and will look at the most effective option to ensure suppliers are meeting legislative requirements and supplying safe drinking water. Failure to carry out required monitoring may have enforcement consequences. However, we won’t ask people to do the impossible. We’ll take a balanced and reasonable approach to regulation and will work alongside suppliers who make reasonable efforts to comply.
Does the mandate of Taumata Arowai include wastewater and stormwater?
Taumata Arowai will be the regulator of drinking water but will also have an oversight role in relation to wastewater and stormwater. This will include establishing national standards, performance measures and targets in order to shine a light on the performance of certain wastewater and stormwater networks. This oversight role will not commence until late 2023.
What approach will Taumata Arowai take to chlorination?
The Water Services Act 2021 provides for an exemption regime which commenced on 1 March 2022. This enables councils to go through an exemption process to use as alternative residual treatment method to chlorination that will still assure clean drinking-water.
What approach will Taumata Arowai take to fluoridation?
According to section 47(3), drinking water standards must not include any requirement that fluoride be added to drinking water. However, above a certain level there is a health impact from fluoride. For this reason, both the current and draft drinking water standards have a Maximum Acceptable Value for fluoride in drinking water of 1.5mg/L. This is higher than the levels of fluoride added to drinking water for health reasons.
The Director-General of Health has the power to direct a local authority to add or not to add fluoride to drinking water (under the Health Act 1956, as amended by Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Act 2021).
Will Taumata Arowai regulate the bottled water industry?
No. Bottled water is not within the scope of the Water Services Act 2021.
For drinking water suppliers
How do I know if I’m a drinking water supplier?
If you own or control a water supply that provides drinking water to more than one household then you’re a drinking water supplier under the Water Services Act 2021.
Do I have to register with Taumata Arowai and how long do I have?
If you were registered as a drinking water supplier immediately before 15 November 2021 when Taumata Arowai became the regulator, then your supply details were automatically transferred from the Ministry of Health's public register to our new system, called Hinekōrako. We’ll send you an email asking you to review and update your contact and supply details. This process will be phased over time, due to the number of suppliers and supplies involved. We intend to have all currently registered drinking water suppliers and supplies entered into our system by early 2022. If you have not heard from us by 30 April 2022 you can send an email to email@example.com with your contact information, the name of your supply and its location.
If you’re an existing drinking water supplier but were not registered with the Ministry of Health on 15 November 2021, you have plenty of time (up until 15 November 2025) to register with us. Registration is free.
All water carriers need to be registered with Taumata Arowai by 15 November 2022.
If you’re a new drinking water supplier looking to start providing drinking water for the first time after 15 November 2021, you will need to register with Taumata Arowai and provide a drinking water safety plan before your supply begins to operate.
What do I do if I don’t currently comply with the standards?
We encourage you to work towards understanding the risks associated with your drinking water supplies so that you can ensure the drinking water you supply is safe and complies with the new Drinking Water Standards and Aesthetic Values. The revised Drinking Water Quality Assurance Rules will be published in July. If you are a registered or new drinking water supplier, these will come into effect on 14 November 2022. If you are an unregistered supplier, you have more time to register and comply. We are developing Acceptable Solutions, which will provide alternative compliance options to the Rules. The Acceptable Solutions will be published shortly so suppliers can understand the range of compliance options.
When do I need to submit my Drinking Water Safety Plan?
If you’re currently registered as a drinking water supplier you’ll need to submit a Drinking Water Safety Plan to us (or alternatively comply with an Acceptable Solution) by 15 November 2022.
If you’re an existing drinking water supplier not currently registered, you have up to 15 November 2025 to register and up to 15 November 2028 to provide a Drinking Water Safety Plan under the Water Services Act 2021.
Because of the nature and risks of water carrier services, some different requirements and timelines apply. All water carriers need to submit a Drinking Water Safety Plan by 15 November 2022.
If you’re a new drinking water supplier (or water carrier) looking to start providing drinking water for the first time after 15 November 2021, you will need to register with Taumata Arowai and provide a drinking water safety plan before your supply begins to operate.
Will Taumata Arowai approve Drinking Water Safety Plans?
Under the Water Services Act 2021, water suppliers are responsible for ensuring their Drinking Water Safety Plan (DWSP) meets legislative requirements. Taumata Arowai will not approve DWSPs. They must be lodged with us and we may review and monitor them, based on our assessment of their scale, complexity and risk. The most important thing is that you understand the risks associated with your supply and that you apply good risk management practices. Read this guidance to assist you in preparing your DWSP.
Will Taumata Arowai provide guidance on drinking water safety planning and source water risk management planning?
What is Hinekōrako?
Hinekōrako is our new self-service web-based portal for drinking water suppliers and accredited laboratories. It will be the primary channel for suppliers and labs to share information with Taumata Arowai including submitting notifications and drinking water safety plans. It can also be used to access the public register of drinking water suppliers. Members of the public can use Hinekōrako to submit concerns about their drinking water and find out who supplies their water on the public register.
How is Hinekōrako different from Drinking Water Online?
The Ministry of Health commissioned Drinking Water Online (DWO) to manage drinking water quality and compliance reporting in 2017. Hinekōrako is not intended as a replacement for DWO as it is being used to support different regulation and a different regulatory approach. Under the Water Services Act 2021, drinking water suppliers are responsible for ensuring compliance. Hinekōrako does not offer functionality to manage supplies, generate test schedules or calculate compliance.
When will suppliers be able to access Hinekōrako?
We have been taking a phased approach to inviting registered suppliers into Hinekōrako. We began with large registered drinking water suppliers in November 2021 and are working through smaller suppliers. Once your account is set up you'll be able to use Hinekōrako to submit notifications, register temporary supplies and add/permit other people in your organisation to have access to read and update this information.
We intend to have all currently registered drinking water suppliers and supplies entered into our system by early 2022.
If you have not heard from us by 30 April 2022 you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information, the name of your supply and its location.
I used to call a Drinking Water Assessor when I had trouble with my supply. What do I do now?
The roles of Drinking Water Assessor and Drinking Water Facilitator have been disestablished under the Water Services Act 2021. We will be taking a different regulatory approach. As a supplier of drinking water, you have a duty of care to ensure that water you supply is safe to drink. If you have any questions or difficulties supplying safe drinking water, you can contact one of our Regulatory Delivery Team members. We’re working closely with Drinking Water Assessors from the PHUs to learn about common needs and challenges of drinking water suppliers.
What staff will you have and where will they be based?
Our Regulatory Delivery Manager, Rob Gould, is based in our Wellington office along with our Lead Advisor Response, Matt Carey and our Regulatory Lead Advisor Melinda Sando, who will work with our largest metropolitan supplies. We have four Regulatory Delivery Teams in our regional offices in Dunedin, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Hamilton. They will work with local drinking water suppliers to help them comply with the Water Services Act 2021.
When will your compliance, monitoring and enforcement strategy be publicly available?
Our compliance, monitoring and enforcement (CME) strategy will be published on our website in July. This will inform the public on how Taumata Arowai plans to utilise the range of different compliance instruments. Any regulatory interventions will be proportionate and directed to address the risk and nature of non-compliance. It will then be reviewed on a three-yearly cycle, although it can be amended at any time.
New Drinking Water Standards and Quality Assurance Rules
Who will the new standards and rules apply to?
The new Drinking Water Standards, Quality Assurance Rules and Aesthetic Values will apply to anyone supplying drinking water to more than one household.
When will the Drinking Water Standards and Aesthetic Values come into effect?
The revised Drinking Water Standards and Aesthetic Values were published in June 2022, which allows registered suppliers and new suppliers time to get familiar with their new obligations before they come into effect in November 2022. Until then, the existing Drinking-water Standards for New Zealand will apply.
How has Taumata Arowai developed the new standards and rules?
We’ve worked with sector reference groups from a variety of drinking water supply types across Aotearoa to develop the new standards and rules. They were then reviewed by an international panel of experts, Watercare, Wellington Water and the Ministry of Health who provided useful feedback and refinements. The public consultation process provided an opportunity to receive feedback from a wide range of stakeholders and will help us make final refinements to each of the documents before they are finalised.
What is Taumata Arowai doing about the issue of nitrates in water?
As the water services regulator, our current focus is working with drinking water suppliers to make sure they provide safe drinking water, which complies with the Standards. We have proposed to set the Maximum Acceptable Value (MAV) for nitrate in drinking water at 50mg/L (sometimes reported as 11.3mg nitrate-nitrogen). This is in line with the guidelines from the World Health Organisation and other international standards including the European Union and Australia.
Taumata Arowai is working closely with the Ministry for the Environment and local authorities who are responsible for freshwater and regulating activities around water sources that could impact the quality of the treated drinking water.
When did public consultation start and how long will it last?
Our consultation was from 17 January to 28 March 2022. Consultation is now closed. Thank you for your submissions on the proposed documents we consulted on. This is the first of many public consultations where we will seek feedback and input.
What did Taumata Arowai consult on?
We consulted on the following draft documents. These are largely targeted at drinking water suppliers and contain technical content that will guide the way safe drinking water is supplied to people in Aotearoa New Zealand:
- Drinking Water Standards
- Drinking Water Quality Assurance Rules
- Drinking Water Aesthetic Values
- Drinking Water Acceptable Solution for Roof Water Supplies
- Drinking Water Acceptable Solution for Spring and Bore Water Supplies
- Drinking Water Acceptable Solution for Rural Agricultural Water Supplies
- Drinking Water Network Environmental Performance
What happens next?
We are currently finalising changes to the Quality Assurance Rules based on the advice we received during the consultation process. A summary of the submissions made on the Rules as well as an outline of the proposed changes will be published on our website as soon as possible. We plan to publish the revised Quality Assurance Rules in July.
We are currently reviewing the submissions we received on the Acceptable Solutions and are drafting the revised Acceptable Solutions. These will be published shortly after the Quality Assurance Rules.
The Standards, Rules, Aesthetic Values and Acceptable Solutions will come into effect on 14 November 2022.
Whānau, hapū and iwi Māori
How will Taumata Arowai demonstrate its commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi?
Taumata Arowai is committed to working alongside whānau, hapū and iwi Māori as the Crown’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi partner. The intention of the Taumata Arowai Board and Te Puna, our Māori Advisory Group, is to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi by ensuring we engage with whānau, hapū and iwi Māori early and meaningfully, and understand their perspectives. Taumata Arowai will develop a set of guidelines to ensure engagement and participation with whānau, hapū and iwi Māori happens early, their views are considered and their mātauranga is recognised in a way that is appropriate and meaningful.
Will the role of Taumata Arowai as regulator interfere with the kaitiaki role of manawhenua iwi and hapū?
No. It will not interfere with kaitiaki roles of iwi or hapū, which will continue as they have down through the generations. The role of Taumata Arowai is to ensure everyone has reliable access to safe drinking water, and this is done by regulating those who provide drinking water services, by setting standards, helping with compliance and holding suppliers to account.
Will the Water Services Act allow staff to enter marae to assess drinking water standards without protocols and permission?
No, Taumata Arowai staff will not enter marae without ensuring we engage appropriately with whānau, hapū and iwi Māori, including entering marae to assess drinking water standards. Taumata Arowai staff do not have statutory power to enter a home or marae, without the consent of an occupier or a search warrant.
Taumata Arowai needs proportional Māori representation. Will this be represented in its Terms of Reference?
The diversity of the Taumata Arowai Board and Te Puna, our Māori Advisory Group, was a major consideration of the appointment process. Three of the seven board members are Māori. The board members are collectively required to have knowledge and experience of, and capability in, various matters including Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles and perspectives of Māori and tikanga Māori. The board also receives advice from Te Puna on Māori interests and knowledge, including advice on how to enable mātauranga Māori, tikanga Māori, and kaitiakitanga to be exercised.
How will the Water Services Act impact marae and papakāinga that supply water?
The Government’s policy is for drinking water to be reliable and safe for everyone. This covers small water suppliers, which can include ahi kaa, marae, papakāinga and supplies to properties in rural areas. Taumata Arowai will provide support and guidance to drinking water suppliers – including marae and papakāinga – to help build capability and capacity. It has a modern regulatory tool kit that it will use to promote good practice, compliance and enforcement.
For unregistered and small drinking water suppliers
How many unregistered drinking water suppliers are there in Aotearoa?
Initial estimates suggest there are approximately 75,000 unregistered suppliers across the country. This figure comes from research undertaken by BECA.
Why is Taumata Arowai concerning itself with rural community water supplies when they’ve always been managed locally?
Some small drinking water suppliers face difficulties providing safe and acceptable drinking water to their communities. We’re committed to ensuring all communities have access to safe, reliable drinking water every day. We’ll work with rural and community drinking water schemes to ensure they’re aware of their obligations to provide safe drinking water, and that they have practical technical advice on how to affordably do so.
How will small, rural and community suppliers get money to upgrade their facilities?
We’re aware that some communities won’t have the means to improve their drinking water supplies to meet the required standards. This is why the Water Services Act 2021 has given unregistered suppliers four years to register and seven years provide a drinking water safety plan, or to adopt an acceptable solution, under the Act. During this time, we’ll work with small suppliers and the government to develop practical and affordable solutions. The government has set aside $30 million to support this work, which is being administered by the Department of Internal Affairs.
What’s an Acceptable Solution and how can it help?
Acceptable Solutions provide an alternative option for certain supply types to meet their compliance obligations. Compliance with some acceptable solutions means you don’t have to prepare and lodge a Drinking Water Safety Plan. While the draft Acceptable Solutions have yet to be consulted on, it’s possible some will enable certain supply types to use UV to treat drinking water instead of chlorination.
What is your role in relation to stormwater?
From 4 October 2023, Taumata Arowai will have an oversight role in relation to stormwater. Regional Councils are the front-line regulator of stormwater. Taumata Arowai will work in partnership with them to support their role as the regulator and improve national consistency.
We will be responsible for:
- Setting stormwater measures and targets
- Publishing an annual report on the environmental performance of stormwater networks
- Establishing a public register of stormwater networks.
We will not be responsible for:
- Front-line regulation of stormwater networks' environmental performance
- Setting standards for stormwater
- Requiring / reviewing stormwater management plans.
When will your role in relation to stormwater commence?
Taumata Arowai became the new water services regulator on 15 November 2021. While most of the Water Services Act 2021 came into effect on this day, provisions relating to wastewater and stormwater will come into effect on 4 October 2023. This will be when our role in relation to stormwater will commence.