Kiwis could be drinking unsafe water

An inquiry has found immediate action needs to be taken to address the water quality in some areas of the country

Previous year more than 5000 people became sick from Havelock North's drinking water and the report warned almost 800,000 people were being supplied water that was "not demonstrably safe".

Water quality has been a vexed issue for political parties, with the previous administration attempting to find consensus through the Land and Water Forum, while the ruling Labour Party was forced to drop its planned tax for commercial water use by coalition partner NZ First, although they do plan to impose a levy on drinking water exports.

This year the council has spent $12mil on improving processes around the drinking water supply and is forecast to spend another $25mil over the coming years.

The findings come from the second stage of a Government inquiry into the Havelock North water poisoning that saw 5,500 people become ill from drinking contaminated water.

"Traditionally, providing drinking water has been a primary responsibility of councils and we don't see that as changing, although it is true according to the inquiry that some of the smaller populations if they're left alone won't be able to afford to do it, so we're going to have to work through that".

"Pending such changes, the Ministry of Health should, through the DWAs and medical officers of health, take immediate steps to enforce the current law in the hope the recalcitrant water suppliers will be called to account before it is too late to prevent another outbreak of waterborne disease", the report said.

"The industry has demonstrated that it is not capable of itself improving when the standards are not met".

The report pointed to a number of submissions that highlighted that some communities were opposed to treatment, particularly chlorination, which was perceived to produce adverse taste and odour effects.

The Minister for Economic Development says the country's water issues are "a lot more widespread than previously thought".

"Taste and odour problems will be minimal or non-existent in a properly run and stabilised chlorination system".

The water was not disinfected with chlorine or UV treatment, so drinkers consumed the bacteria.

The report isn't all bad news though with Mr Parker wanting to address the fact a large majority of Kiwis had access to treated water.

An official report into the Havelock North gastro outbreak warns one in five people are at risk and recommends upgrading infrastructure, mandatory water treatment, and establishing an independent regulator.

"Regulation and enforcement have been poor".

We are considering the Havelock North report to determine the implications for this area of focus and on our water management programme more generally.

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