A key report on the future of New Zealand's fresh water resources has recommended the establishment of new national regulator overseeing the pricing and performance of water utilities including Auckland's Watercare Services.

The Land and Water Forum which comprises of 58 businesses, industry
organisations, iwi and conservation groups, also proposed a new
overarching and collaborative National Land and Water Commission to advise the Government on water management issues.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said New Zealand's water was not being managed very well "the issue is we've had so much we've been able to quite careless in which we manage those resources".

Forum chairman Alastair Bisley said while New Zealand's freshwater was still comparatively good "its quality and availability have been deteriorating, and we must take steps on several fronts to reverse this trend".

The report recommend rationalisation of 67 council water supply and wastewater utilities into fewer large organisations with a metering and charging regime overseen by a new national regulator rather than the 12 separate entities that perform that function at present.

While plans to amalgamate Auckland's water services into a single entity - WatercareServices - are now inplace, the Royal
Commission on Auckland Governance's recommendation for udit oversight of the new organisation has not been picked up and questions remain over pricing for waste water services.

The forum said waterservices management nationally was "disjointed and suffers from underinvestment" leading to delayed maintenance and waste.

"Along with drinking water problems, in some areas there are issues with the management of wastewater and stormwater," the report says.

Local authority plans indicate $11.46 billion in capital investment and
$17 billion in operational spending on urban waterservices is required over the next eight years.

Meanwhile, the forum said the National Land and Water Commission
should be established "on a co governance basis with iwi" to provide central leadership on water management.

New Zealand currently has nine government departments dealing with water, plus 12 regionally based, and 73 locally based regulators.

The commission would foster collaborative relationships between various sectors and interest and would also recognise the iwi Treaty relationship with the Crown.

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell welcomed the proposal.

"We expect all future arrangements to continue to enable whanau, hapu
and iwi to to play an active part in the freshwater management processes," he said.

The forum also says the Government should move quickly to adopt a National Policy Statement (NPS) which would set out wider national principles for water management through the Resource Management Act.

The Government currently has a draft NPS but Dr Smith yesterday it was unlikely to be put in place until next year.

The forum is conduct a national roadshow over the next two months to explain the report to the public.

The Government would then consider both the report and the feedback from the regions with advice from iwi and officials before it makes longterm policy decisions.

- additional reporting NZPA