The Government is amending the Health Act to allow for significant improvements to the safety of drinking-water in New Zealand, Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced.
The following is a Statement issued by him.
The Havelock North Inquiry
This is the legislative groundwork we need to put in place ahead of tackling the big changes recommended by the Havelock North Inquiry.
The Inquiry which followed the outbreak of gastroenteritis in Havelock North in August 2016 estimated that up to 100,000 Kiwis were getting sick from drinking-water every year.
The amendments to the Health Act 1956 are an interim step which improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing drinking-water safety regime and allows for faster implementation of major reforms to come.
The key change is the removal of the requirement for a five year consultation and notification period for changes to drinking-water standards.
These changes to the Act will ensure that drinking-water standards can be improved and implemented faster and more efficiently.
The bill will still require the Minister to ensure adequate consultation with stakeholders including local authorities before any changes are made.
The bill also makes it clear that water suppliers must implement approved water safety plans in accordance with an agreed timetable and streamline the process for appointing Drinking-water Assessors.
These are good interim steps to help protect our people’s health while we deal with long-standing drinking-water issues inherited by the Government and which were tragically illustrated in Havelock North.
The Cabinet has directed further work on the Government’s response to the inquiry’s recommendations, including its substantive findings that (a) Require water supplies to be treated, including with a residual disinfectant in the reticulation (b) Make compliance with the Drinking Water Standards mandatory (c) Establish a dedicated drinking-water regulator and (d) Create aggregated, dedicated water suppliers.
Much of this work is being jointly undertaken in the context of the Government’s cross-agency Three Waters Review, which is looking at the broader arrangements for drinking-water, waste water and storm water.
We recognise that the shift to ensure safer drinking water for everyone will require considerable effort and resources.
Drinking-water supplies are largely run by local government and we need to have a conversation with councils and other suppliers and other stakeholders including Māori about how we get there.
More information about the Government’s response to the Havelock North Inquiry can be found on the Ministry of Health website (www.health.govt.nz)
(Photo of Health Minister Dr David Clark from file)