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Action needed over Coast water quality

29 July 2008

Action, not cover-up, needed over Coast water quality

Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman says he is worried central government may put pressure on West Coast authorities to ignore a report saying 100 percent of West Coast water supplies failed to meet drinking standards.

"After I commented on the joint document produced by the West Coast and Canterbury District Health Boards last week, the local MP and Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor has said the report 'shouldn't have been in the public domain in the first place'.

"He seems to discount the report's main themes and hopes that if studies on water quality are out-of-sight, they will also be out-of-mind."

Dr Norman said he accepted Mr O'Connor's comment that the report was a draft which mixed national and regional statistics; for example it indicated a national figure of around 18,000 and 34,000 cases of gastro-intestinal disease was a regional figure, when the true number was about 110. The Greens had incorrectly used such figures in a press statement based on the report.

"I understand these typographical and layout errors will be ironed out by the report's authors within the next six weeks or so, and then Mr O'Connor must stop shutting his eyes to the message there is a major problem with Coast drinking supplies."

Also, the West Coast Regional Council needed to reflect on its policy of generally not prosecuting over consent breaches, despite evidence some farmers were putting profits ahead of West Coast residents' health.

"I know some water supplies are not affected by dairying and there are other causes of water pollution on the Coast, for example mining and septic tank leakage," Dr Norman said. "But despite Mr O'Connor saying I've been unfair in blaming industrial dairying, the truth is the report identifies dairying expansion as a major offender in 'polluting... water with faecal material, nitrates and silts...' "

"Mr O'Connor and regional councillors need only look at the report's map of New Zealand headed 'Drinking Water Quality - E. Coli' to see Coasters are hard-done-by with their water supplies."


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