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Caucus Calls For Action On Marae Drinking Water

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Maori Caucus calls for action on marae drinking water

The Maori Caucus of the Public Health Association is calling for health sector action to help improve the quality of drinking water at marae and small rural communities.

This call follows the release of a report on the Hokianga Drinking Water Pilot Nga Puna Wai o Hokianga, where drinking water plants were installed in Northland marae and communities serving about 6,500 people.

Caucus spokesman Chris Webber has welcomed the report but says many other marae and small rural communities around the country continue to have third world or substandard drinking water quality.

Mr Webber says many marae and small communities don't have the capacity to install and maintain drinking water plants in order to reach New Zealand drinking water standards. These water supplies are usually regarded as private water supplies and ignored by local authority and public health monitoring and surveillance systems, he says.

"People assume they have safe drinking water but few are aware what happens beyond turning on the tap."

Access to safe drinking water should be a right for all and is a major public health issue, Mr Webber says. Contaminated water can cause outbreaks of infectious gastro-intestinal disease from bugs like giardia and ecoli, he says.

People infected from water can also transmit the diseases to other people, causing outbreaks among children at childcare centres and at food preparation outlets.

Key factors in the success of the Hokianga pilot seem to include consultation and partnership with Northland communities and setting up infrastructure to keep systems going, Mr Webber says.

He believes the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders should build on the momentum of the Hokianga project to find sustainable solutions in other parts of the country.

Information about the Hokianga pilot and another project at Whirinaki, will be presented at the Public Health Conference as a case study in community self-determination. The conference is being held in Ngaruawahia from 2-4 July.

For more information:

Chris Webber 025 353 755

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