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Safe drinking water for small isolated communities

Successful trial for safe drinking water scheme in small isolated communities

Health Minister Annette King said the success of a three-year pilot to improve drinking water supplies in Hokianga shows that rural communities can access reticulated water supplies at a reasonable cost.

A report has been released on the $1.5 million Nga Punawai o Hokianga (Safe Drinking Water in Hokianga Pilot Project) initiated in 1999 with the objective of improving drinking water quality for 33 communities and Marae in the area.

Ms King says the report shows positive health gains can be achieved by supplying safe drinking water to isolated, disadvantaged and predominantly Maori communities.

The Hokianga project's success was highly commended last month in the organisation category of the New Zealand Health Innovation Awards, independently run by the Business Excellence Foundation and sponsored by the Ministry of Health and ACC.

“The success of the programme can be attributed to the fact that the project was taken on and locally driven by the community.” The involvement of Kaumatua, who consulted through Hui and communicated through Te Reo Mâori, was critical to locals owning the scheme, said Ms King.

Hokianga Health Enterprises Trust (HHET), an agency that had been providing free health care in Hokianga since 1947, was contracted by the Ministry of Health to manage the project, and it contributed strongly to the scheme’s success.

Ms King said the results of the project were evaluated in three phases by Beca Carter Hollings and Ferner Consultants together with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd.

The completed report has provided recommendations for improvements should a subsidy scheme be implemented in other districts as part of the Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme. The scheme was announced in May 2002 to help small to medium-sized communities upgrade or build new sewerage systems or sewage treatment plants.

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