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Labour must come clean over shower regulations

Hon. Dr Nick Smith MP
National Party Building and Construction Spokesman

10 October 2008

Labour must come clean over shower regulations

Labour needs to come clean on its planned regulations to restrict the water flows in New Zealand showers, says National’s Building spokesman, Nick Smith.

“No amount of bluff and bluster from Building Minister Shane Jones can hide the fact that new regulations coming into effect on 1 February next year will significantly reduce water flows in new and refurbished showers”, says Dr Smith.

“Furthermore, it is all very well for him to say these new regulations affect only renovations and new homes, but in time they will apply to everyone because the lifespan of a bathroom is 20 years under average household use.

“It’s not true for Mr Jones to say ‘there are no restrictions on flow rates of your showerhead’ when his department’s changes to the Building Code explicitly set maximum flow rates of six litres per minute for homes with more than three bedrooms and over 150 sq metres with electric hot water cylinders (75% of homes), and only slightly higher rates for smaller homes or homes with alternative heating sources.

“It’s true that higher flow rates are allowed if homeowners invest in solar water heating, heat-pump technologies, or other energy efficient systems, but even then the allowed flow rates are significantly less than the current average for New Zealand homes of 13 litres per minute.

“Nor is it possible for the Minister to pretend these are only proposals. Department officials have made plain to those commenting on the draft regulations that they are policy, having already been through a round of consultation in May 2007. The only aspect now up for discussion is the wording of the regulations.

“To quote the department’s website: ‘Changes to the New Zealand Building Code clause H1 have been made and come into force on 1 February 2009.’

“New Zealanders from Kaitaia to Bluff have inundated me with angry and bewildered calls and emails over this latest bout of nanny state regulation and want the restrictions dropped.”

“National supports solar water systems, heat-pump technologies, and better home insulation, and we don’t have any issue with requiring hot water pipes to be insulated. However, these restrictions on shower water flows are ridiculous.

“Shane Jones needs to heed the message and drop them now.”

Attachment: Backgrounder on new shower regulations


New Shower Regulations: Backgrounder

1. Currently there are no controls on shower flow rates, and households are free to install shower heads with flows ranging from 5 litres/minute to 24 litres/minute (some are as high as 35 litres/minute). The average is 13 litres/minute.

2. New building regulations severely restrict water flows in showers. The original proposals were consulted on in May 2007. The request for comments by 8 October states: “Changes to NZBC (New Zealand Building Code) clause H1 have now been made and come into force on 1 February 2009”, and goes on to state: “The Department is seeking final comments on the draft compliance document before it is published in October 2008”.

3. The new NZBC Clause H1 Energy Efficiency includes a new Performance H1.3.4(c) in respect of hot water systems. The “Acceptable Solution” requires all new hot water pipes to be insulated (to which there is no objection) and places restrictions on the flow rates of showers in sections for housing 5.2.1 and 5.2.2 which are summarised in the table below:

/ Home Area

Hot Water Heating Systems
/ < 3 bedrooms / > 3 bedrooms or > 150 m sq

Electric / 7.5 l/min / 6.0 l/min
Instant Gas / 9.0 l/min / 7.5 l/min
Solar / 9.0 l/min / 7.5 l/min
Heat Pump / 12.0 l/min / 12 l/min
Gas with Storage / 6.0 l/min / 6 l/min

4. The new regulations apply to any new building consent issued from 1 February 2009 and will cover new homes and alterations. Repair or replacement of an existing hot water system will be allowed so long as it does not make it less efficient.

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