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Drinking water consultation begins

Saturday 24 September 2005

Drinking water consultation begins

The consultation process for a proposed new National Environmental Standard for Human Drinking Water Sources begins today.

“A safe and dependable supply of drinking water, at the source, is critical for the health of all New Zealanders, now and in the future,” the Ministry for the Environment’s Chief Executive Barry Carbon said today.

The standard aims to ensure that activities in a water supply catchment do not pollute water to an extent where it cannot be made safe to drink. The initiative is part of the new national environmental policies and standards agenda which was announced by Environment Minister Marian Hobbs in August.

“This will ultimately lead to safer drinking water as it will reduce the risks of contaminants exceeding the capabilities of the treatment plant. By addressing problems at the source, we can reduce the risks that can arise throughout the entire ‘source to tap’ process,” Barry Carbon said.

“The proposed standard makes it clear that local government has the authority and the responsibility to conduct what many of them see as good practice.

“It is part of doing reality checks on our current processes, thinking about the future and providing better protection in the most cost-effective manner,” Barry Carbon said.

The Ministry’s Local Government General Manager, Sue Powell, said the Ministry has consulted widely on the proposed new drinking water standard.

“Regional councils and water suppliers have been heavily involved in the development of the national standard. The work has included months of discussions regarding matters such as drinking water security, implementation programmes, economic development pressures, risk analysis, and management,” Sue Powell said.

“It is time to take the next step with our water supply system in New Zealand. We have good people in the industry, and we have regulatory capacity. But we need to achieve excellence in source-to-tap protection.

“This standard is about local government and catchment protection. We expect that the Ministry of Health will provide complimentary work on the standard of water that comes from the tap,” Sue Powell said.

Input from the general public, water quality experts, the managers of water supplies and sources, and communities will continue throughout the submissions process.

“We want communities, not just national and regional authorities to have a say in this. After all, it’s their drinking water,” Sue Powell said.

The submissions process begins today and closes at 5pm on Monday 28 November 2005.

A discussion document has been produced by the Ministry for the Environment to assist people in making submissions. This document can be viewed on the Ministry website at www.mfe.govt.nz.

The proposed standard will also be presented at the Ministry’s Talk Environment Roadshow, visiting towns and cities around New Zealand in October.

Once submissions have been compiled they will be considered in developing the final standard and in preparing the regulations.

Background:
What are the objectives of the standard?
The objectives of the standard are to:-

ensure consideration of resource consent applications includes assessment of the applications’ impact on community drinking water supplies

increase shared understanding between water suppliers, resource users, and regulatory authorities regarding the impact of their activities on other parties, particularly in respect of drinking water standards

ensure that regional councils periodically undertake a risk-based assessment of the impact of permitted activity rules on community drinking water supplies

ensure communication protocols are in place to protect community drinking water supplies in the event of an unauthorised discharge

enable councils to require appropriate action to be taken by drinking water suppliers in the event of an accident or emergency

highlight the boundaries between responsibilities under the law, particularly Ministry of Health legislation and the Resource Management Act (RMA).

How can I access a copy of the discussion document?
A discussion document has been posted on the Ministry for the Environment website. The aim of the discussion document is to help people understand the proposal and to assist them in preparing submissions, questions and feedback for workshops that will be held with key water interest groups between the 5 and 10 October in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch and Hamilton.

To view the discussion document please visit the Ministry for the Environment’s website at www.mfe.govt.nz/laws/standards/drinking-water-source-standard.html

If you would prefer a hard copy of the discussion document, free copies are available by emailing your request to publications@mfe.govt.nz

When is the Talk Environment Roadshow?
The Talk Environment Roadshow will visit 16 locations between 10 and 27 October to gather valuable information and input from local government, community, business and iwi on key environmental issues. The proposed drinking water standard will be one of these issues.

For further information, visit the registration website at www.avenues.co.nz/talkenvironment/localgov.html or phone the Roadshow organisers on 0800 TALK ENV (0800 825 536).

For more information on the standard including questions and answers, go to the national environmental standards page on the Ministry for the Environment website at:www.mfe.govt.nz/laws/standards/index.html

If you would like some additional quotes from the Chief Executive, Barry Carbon and the Ministry's General Manager of Local Government, Sue Powell, please contact Erin Leigh who will be able to provide you with some additional quotes.

ENDS

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