Three waters sector challenged by huge growth and infrastructure demands

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Water New Zealand says new data just released shows the extent of the enormous challenges facing the water sector in New Zealand.

Chief executive Gillian Blythe says the three waters sector has responded to rising demands with a big jump in infrastructure spending in the last year and this is stretching the capacity of our service providers.

Water New Zealand’s latest National Performance Review (NPR) shows that $1.6-billion was spent on capital improvements last year - an increase of 44 percent for water supply and 30 percent increase in wastewater expenditure from the previous year.

The latest NPR findings come on the back of a recent Government report which found that the cost for fixing New Zealand’s water systems could be as high as $110-billion over the next 30 to 40 years to maintain and enhance infrastructure and meet growth and climate change requirements.

The NPR is an annual benchmarking performance comparison across the three waters service provision in New Zealand.

It provides the country’s long running trended data of New Zealand-specific performance assessment of water, wastewater, and stormwater services. It also provides an overview of the assets and people that underpin these services.

The review has also revealed that the workforce is struggling to keep up with existing levels of growth despite a 25 percent increase in the number of people employed in the last year.

“High levels of vacancies have continued to be a feature with an eight percent vacancy rate across the three waters sector.

“This has flow on impacts for the ability of service providers to keep pace with the levels of service being demanded by consumers and regulatory standards.

“On average only 77 percent of budgeted capital expenditure was spent last financial year. The lack of people to deliver projects has been widely acknowledged as a key reason for this gap."

She says this creates exciting opportunities for school leavers and those looking for new opportunities.

“The water sector is a great place to work for those interested in giving back to their communities and the environment.”

The latest NPR covers around 90 percent of the population and 42 suppliers.  All participants take part on a voluntary basis. The full report and further data is available from

Infrastructure National Performance Review Pipes Resilience