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Minister Nanaia Mahuta: Making sure our water is clean and safe to drink

Opinion 10/07/2020

This is an oped written by Nanaia Mahuta, Minister for Maori Development and Local Government.

OPINION: I joined the Prime Minister in Havelock North this week to announce the details of a major investment in cleaning up New Zealand's drinking water. This announcement builds on two years of engaging councils in a conversation about the health of our drinking water and the need to invest in our three waters system.

We stood at a spot close to the infamous Bore 1 which was contaminated by sheep poo back in 2016. 5,500 people got very sick with campylobacta poisoning and four people died. 

And it’s not just Havelock North, every year at least 34,000 New Zealand get sick from drinking dirty tap water. Sadly there are some small communities who are often told to boil their water prior to drinking.

Standing in that paddock in Hawkes Bay was a pivotal moment in this journey to clean up our drinking water. From the start our Government decided that New Zealanders throughout the country, and our visitors, must have confidence that when they turn on the tap, the water is safe to drink.

Together with setting up a watchdog-regulator in Taumata Arowai we are investing $761 million to upgrade water pipes and treatment stations around the country.

This funding will support three waters projects, including all maintenance and renewals. The aim is to create and maintain jobs and investment in water infrastructure. It will also be important in the context of the economic pressures of COVID-19.

The financial investment from the Government is contingent on local councils opting in to the Government’s wider water reform programme. The effect of increasing capital costs, infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, enhanced standards and environmental challenges mean that the current operational and governance arrangements for water are not sustainable and consolidation is required. 

I congratulate the leaders of our Local Government who have supported our approach and are proposing a partnership approach.

Nanaia Mahuta is the Minister for Maori Development and Local Government.