Inquiry: More than 700,000 Kiwis may be drinking unsafe water
The Health Ministry and local authorities are being slammed for "widespread systemic failure" in their duty to ensure safe drinking water, with a new report showing at least 721,000 New Zealanders and countless tourists are drinking water that may not be safe.
The second stage of a Government inquiry was released today into the health crisis in Havelock North, which saw more than a third of the town’s 15,000 people become sick from contaminated drinking water.
The inquiry was scathing on the suppliers – usually the local authority, monitored by the Health Ministry – for ensuring safe drinking water.
"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.
Neither has the Ministry of Health … shown an ability to call the industry to account."
Read the full report here The Director-General of Health Chai Chuah told the inquiry that the figures were "very troubling", while the ministry’s leader of the drinking water team Sally Gilbert said that the figures "raise flags" and that the ministry needed to "strengthen [its] advice in this area".
Moreover, there has been no marked improvement in the number of suppliers supplying safe drinking water throughout the 2009-2016 period," despite a law change in 2007 that was considered international best practice.
In the aftermath of the bacteriological outbreak in Havelock North, these failures to respond effectively to transgressions or to monitor adequately are surprising and unacceptable."
The inquiry recommends a major overhaul of the system including 51 recommendations, including the universal treatment of drinking water, establishing a new independent drinking water regulator, and stronger laws and regulations to enforce standards.
The supply of drinking water is no different."