New report calls for water treatment, regulation across country

The Attorney General will release the report in the next few days

"Failures at all levels, from the legislation to governance and weak institutional capability, have contributed to a drinking water system which is risky, inefficient and unacceptable".

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.

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.

Other recommendations include universal treatment of water, setting up a new independent drinking water regulator, strengthening legislation, and imposing a licensing system.

Local Government New Zealand said the report failed to identify who would pay for numerous report's 51 recommendations.

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

"It's all very fine saying these standards have to be met, but if you don't address how it's going to be paid for, and who's going to pay for it, then you haven't really tackled the issue", said president Dave Cull.

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While the inquiry appreciated that legislative change to mandate drinking water treatment with a residual disinfectant (most commonly chlorine) would take some time, it urged the Director-General of Health to encourage and persuade all water suppliers to use appropriate and effective treatment without delay.

Parker said one of the report's recommendations - to set up larger organisations to handle the water supply instead of leaving it to each local authority - would help to reduce costs.

It also called for the current drinking water team within the Ministry of Health to be dismantled and replaced by a Drinking Water Regulation Establishment Unit.

Cull said some communities would be happy with their current water supply and the level of risk from untreated water, and should not be "overridden" by central government if they were making informed decisions.

"The inquiry indicates that while drinking water standards instituted in 2007 represented worldwide best practices at the time, since then New Zealand's standards have not kept up with the world", he said.

Mr Parker was addressing media after an 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.

Parker said the Government had not yet decided which of the recommendations it supported and which, if any, it opposed.

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