The government is rebranding its Three Waters policy as part of what Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says is a package of “imminent” changes to the controversial policy.
In future, the policies formerly known as Three Waters will be referred to as “water infrastructure”.
“It’s about water infrastructure” and the under-investment that needs to be fixed to bring drinking, waste and stormwater systems up to standard, Hipkins said.
The meaning of the term “Three Waters” had become “somewhat confused”, he said at a post-cabinet press conference on Wednesday.
At the same press conference, Hipkins was asked whether the government is still committed to passing its Resource Management Act reforms in this term of Parliament.
The Natural and Built Environments Bill and the Spatial Planning Bill are meant to be law by mid-year but are bogged down at the select committee hearing stage.
“The government is still intending to progress those,” said Hipkins, in response to journalists’ questions.
Hipkins also suggested that the former local government minister who had led the reform process, Nanaia Mahuta, was left too long by her cabinet colleagues to defend the policy alone.
That was not a criticism of Hipkins’ predecessor, Jacinda Ardern, but a “collective” responsibility issue, he said.
Mahuta was notable for pursuing the Three Waters policy agenda widely with local government and iwi, but showed an unwillingness or inability to defend the reforms vigorously in public settings.