Twenty per cent of New Zealand drinking water 'at risk', report calls for urgent treatment of all supplies

The drinking water of 20 per cent of the country is at risk – and an inquiry has recommended all drinking water be urgently treated.

The inquiry into Havelock North's drinking water contamination released a damning 296 page report into the safety and security of New Zealand's drinking water supply.

It makes 51 recommendations and says urgent action is needed.

1 NEWS political reporter Katie Bradford has followed the saga since the 2016 gastro outbreak saw thousands taken ill. Source: 1 NEWS

It's the second stage of an inquiry launched following the August 2016 water contamination in Havelock North, which left 5000 people sick.

Led by Hon Lyn Stevens, Dr Karen Poutasi and Anthony Wilson, it says: "These findings point to a widespread systemic failure among water suppliers to meet the high standards required for the supply of safe drinking water to the public.

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

Eighty per cent of New Zealanders live in areas where the inquiry has determined that water standards are adhered to – generally people on reticulated water systems.

But the recommendations made in the report are focused on bringing the rest of the country up to standard – those who rely on untreated water in places like Hawke's Bay, Christchurch and Lower Hutt.

A number of recommendations need to be made urgently, the authors say.

That includes universal treatment of all drinking water – likely to be controversial and expensive.

It says the Ministry of Health needs to overhaul drinking water standards and introduce six new principles aimed at ensuring a safe and secure supply.

"The Director-General of Health can and should, in the interests of public safety and welfare, exercise effective and practical leadership to encourage water suppliers to use appropriate and effective treatment without delay."

A whole new drinking regime should be introduced, and offences created of supplying water unfit for human consumption – with costs if convicted of an offence.

"Complacency" over water supply by a number of authorities is also a problem.

Two recommendations directly relate to the Havelock North contamination - no new underground bores should be permitted and clearer advice must be provided when boil water notices are issued.

Local Government Minister David Parker says the Government is now considering the recommendations, and is addressing some of them straight away.

"The Government has today written to Mayors and DHBs throughout New Zealand. We've asked them to check the water they’re supplying residents meet current standards, given the report finds significant non compliance."

The Health Minister will urgently brief Cabinet – before Christmas – on the next steps, short and long term.

Mr Parker says it is a matter of priority for the government.

The report recommends making water suppliers liable over water quality. Source: 1 NEWS

Government prepares to battle soaring fuel prices in wake of blistering new report that says Kiwis overpaying at the pump

The Government is preparing to take on fuel companies over soaring petrol prices in the wake of a blistering new report.

However cash-strapped motorists will not get any immediate relief at the pumps.  

The Minister of Energy and Resources says fuel isn't delivering 'fair and competitive prices'. Source: 1 NEWS

Business ministry officials today published a report that says Kiwis are paying too much for petrol and diesel – and those increased costs can't be explained. 

Over the last decade New Zealand has gone from having some of the lowest pre-tax fuel prices in the developed world to the highest.

The government is stepping in to stop motorists being ripped off. Source: 1 NEWS

Energy Minister Megan Woods said: "MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] notes that the rise in margins since 2008 represents a transfer of wealth from consumers to producers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars."

So the Government has now asked MBIE to investigate ways to use legislation to intervene in the market. 

They will not go so far as to set prices at the pump or nationalise fuel companies, but will look at how Parliament can make the market much more competitive and make it easier for new companies to emerge.

After almost five years of consumer concern, it is the strongest signal the Government has sent to fuel companies about their behaviour, but the options for direct intervention will remain secret – those sections of the report are blanked out.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi has also asked officials to fast-track work that will allow the Commerce Commission to investigate.

The new power would compel companies to provide information to the Commission to fully understand how markets are functioning. But it is not a quick fix as the beefed up powers will not be in place until 2018.

Kiwis motorists spent on average $1500 on petrol in 2016 – that is $150 more a year than in 2008.

At the heart of concerns are margins – the difference between the cost of importing petrol and the price you pay at the pump.

MBIE produced a report earlier this year which said a significant increase in retail margins - and higher prices paid by motorists in Wellington and the South Island - could not easily be explained. 

The margins for fuel not sold to the public – for example for trucking or for aviation – were flat or declining and fuel companies costs had not increased.

MBIE officials could not get to the bottom of the discrepancy because some fuel companies refused to hand over crucial information.

The Government asked MBIE officials to produce a second report and make some recommendations based on their findings.

MBIE ruled out a liquid wholesale market for petrol and diesel – similar to the electricity market – saying it would not work here.

A long awaited reported into petrol pricing will be released by Energy Minister Dr Megan Woods today. Source: Breakfast


Winston Peters: Coalition with National Party would have been the 'much easier choice'

Winston Peters says that when deciding on who New Zealand First would support into government, going with National would have been the easier choice.

Instead, they took the path of "change and regeneration". 

Mr Peters reflected on his decision during his election review speech, an opportunity for political leaders to reflect on the tumultuous 2017 campaign.

Mr Peters said that "the easiest choice would have been to commit to a slightly modified status quo and go with this one other party." 

"That would have been the tidiest things to do."

Mr Peters said a two-party coalition with the National Party "was there for a much easier choice". 

Instead, New Zealand First chose to take the more difficult path for "change and regeneration". 

"Change was and is necessary and it is our responsibility to deliver it and we will."

The Deputy Prime Minister said New Zealand First chose a "harder path of change". Source: 1 NEWS