Government asks Mayors to check water quality

David Parker

Wellington, December 6, 2017

I have today released the second stage of the Inquiry into Havelock North’s drinking water contamination.

I received the inquiry into Havelock North’s drinking water on Monday night.

It makes for sobering reading and the Government is now considering its 51 recommendations.

Poor quality unacceptable

The report highlights the quality of drinking water in New Zealand is often inadequate, and that regulation and enforcement have been poor.

We must do better.

Some of the recommendations can be addressed quickly.

For example, the Government has today written to Mayors and DHBs throughout New Zealand. We have asked them to check if water that they are supplying to residents meets current standards, given the report finds significant non-compliance.

There is nothing in law preventing councils immediately moving to improve the treatment of water.

New measures coming

Alongside this, Health Minister Dr David Clark will brief the Cabinet before Christmas on the next steps – short and long term.

This is a priority for us as a Government.

My message to New Zealanders is that we are taking this seriously, and we will be responding quickly to address the issues raised.

The Panel

I want to thank the panel – Hon Lyn Stevens QC, Dr Karen Poutasi and Anthony Wilson – for their hard work to understand and report on issues of vital importance to the health of all New Zealanders.

I welcome their detailed report and thoughtful and considered recommendations.

We will take control of the mess left by the previous Government, address any regulatory gaps, and work with Councils to ensure water in New Zealand is supplied safely.

We need to get this right in order to avoid a repeat of the series of failures which has led to so many people in Havelock North, and other areas of New Zealand getting sick

The Report in Brief

Following are the opening comments of the Panel.

The information regarding the drinking water of the Heretaunga has now been provided and discussed by the interested parties with the Inquiry.

Now it is time to report on what steps should be taken to ensure that a gastroenteritis outbreak does not happen again.

The problems we have examined are not limited to Heretaunga but are also evident in other parts of Aotearoa.

National Treasure

All are agreed that drinking water is taonga. But there are many risks or threats to drinking water that must be eliminated or mitigated.

Improvements are urgently required to the regulatory system and changes need to be made by drinking water suppliers and others engaged in the delivery of safe drinking water to the public.

This report contains our recommendations on these important matters. Action is now required. The risks of doing nothing are just too high.

The report can be found at www.dia.govt.nz

David Parker is Attorney General of New Zealand.

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