Inquiry slams Ministry of Health, local councils for systemic failure on water standards
While Auckland and Wellington residents are drinking safe water, 20 per cent of the country – over 700,000 New Zealanders and countless more tourists – are at risk of drinking potentially unsafe water.
The Government is moving urgently to address the issue and is likely to set up an independent body to oversee safe drinking water, while also considering sanctions for failing to supply safe drinking water.
Universal treatment is one recommendation of a Government inquiry, released yesterday , into the outbreak of water-borne disease in Havelock North last year, which saw a third of the 15,000 residents fall sick and was linked to three deaths.
The inquiry slammed local councils and the Health Ministry – which are usually responsible for safe drinking water – detailing "widespread systemic failure" and inept enforcement that failed to improve, even after the Havelock North crisis.
It has prompted outrage, with Green’s co-leader James Shaw calling it a "disgrace" and "unconscionable" that New Zealanders could fall sick or even die from drinking tap water.
Health Minister David Clark sought to allay public fears, saying that the water people are drinking today is the same as they were drinking yesterday.
Parker said the Ministry of Health, as well as local authorities, had "effectively failed" New Zealanders.
Christchurch is the largest New Zealand city to have unchlorinated water, drawn from aquifers and piped directly to homes.
Punakaiki, for example, sees 500,000 tourists a year and is a permanent "boil water" notice.
"The inquiry considers such a limp response does not go nearly far enough," the report said.