More chlorination likely with water services set to be centralised

The Government is set to strip councils of their power over water following Havelock North's 2016 gastro crisis which was a wake up call for the country.  

Speaking to Water New Zealand's conference today, the Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, gave her strongest hint yet of change. 

Havelock North's gastro outbreak prompted a review of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater nationwide.

The estimated cost of ensuring drinking water is safe is $500 million, and to fix water infrastructure, at least $2 billion. 

"The Government doesn't have a bottomless pit of money to throw at this," Ms Mahuta said.

But water won't be privatised. Instead, services are likely to be moved into a national water regulator and responsibility for water service stripped from the 67 councils and handed to a small number of entities.

Water NZ chief executive John Pfahlert said that would mean "you get better quality water and it doesn't cost as much to provide". 

But change for the water industry is unlikely to be without controversy.

Any change is likely to see authority over water taken away from local councils, and Local Government New Zealand will not be happy about that.

"We would have issues if it was compulsory because we believe bigger is not always better. New Zealand is incredibly diverse from the Far North to the Deep South," said Stuart Crosbie of Local Government NZ. 

Twenty per cent of drinking water is unsafe - so a national agency is likely to mean more chlorination.

"It's there for a good public health reason. So it'll take time for the communities like Christchurch and Geraldine and other parts of New Zealand which have traditionally not had treated water, to get their head around that," Mr Pfahlert said.

Back in Hawke's Bay, the health board is studying the long-term impacts of the campylobacter outbreak.

John Buckley's family believe he could be the fifth victim of Havelock North's gastro outbreak.

The 78-year-old died three weeks ago of a stroke, but prior to the crisis, they say he'd been healthy.

"He's spent a lot of time in hospital. He's had a lot of unexpected surgeries and bleeds and heart problems, kidney problems, all due to the campylobacter," said Kat Sheridan, Mr Buckley's daughter.

Ms Sheridan says the family wishes, "you can turn your tap on again and trustfully drink the water. Surely that's all we want".

Before any changes can happen Cabinet will need to approve the recommendations made in the review of water management. 

It comes after Havelock North's gastro crisis was a wake-up call for New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

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