Part 1: Our work on water management

Reflecting on our work about water management

New Zealanders have a right to expect that the public sector – local and central government – is managing the country's water resources well, both now and into the future.

How public organisations carry out their governance and management responsibilities, how transparently they make decisions about water, and the reliability of the information that they use to make their decisions, significantly influence the future state of our water resources and the public's trust and confidence that the public sector is managing water well.

In our October 2017 report Introducing our work programme – Water management, we said that we would consider how well organisations are carrying out their water management responsibilities to understand how New Zealand is positioned for the future.

During 2018 and 2019, we looked at elements of the management of drinking water, freshwater, stormwater, and the marine environment.

We intend to provide independent assurance to Parliament, the organisations that we audit, and New Zealanders about the state of water management. We will highlight any improvements that are needed in the public management of water and in the accountability and transparency of organisations for their decision-making and performance – Office of the Auditor-General (2017), Introducing our work programme – Water management, page 4.

Our water management work focused on:

  • the role of information;
  • innovation and good practice;
  • how organisations balance competing interests and priorities;
  • how organisations make investment decisions;
  • how organisations work together, with Māori, and with others; and
  • the capacity and capability of the public sector to address water management challenges.3

We completed seven performance audits looking at these issues. We published the results of those audits in the following reports:

In this report, we highlight the issues we saw that influence whether water is being managed well. We also discuss the main areas we consider that the Government needs to prioritise to improve how water is managed. We have organised these issues under three headings:

  • setting strategic direction;
  • the role of information; and
  • how public organisations work together and with others.

We have drawn from our seven water performance audits and our audit work more generally, with a particular focus on our audits of councils' 2018-28 long-term plans. We have also considered our relevant past reports and the relevant work of other agencies.

3: See our 2017 report Introducing our work programme – Water management for a discussion of these themes.