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New water regulator a vital move

Paul Evans, Chief Executive of the Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand (ACENZ), applauds the Government’s move to create a new regulator to monitor the way drinking water is managed in Aotearoa.

The new proposal stems from the inquiry into the Havelock North water crisis in 2016, which was linked to four deaths and left more than 5000 people ill. The national regulator will also allow the government to strengthen its stewardship of wastewater and stormwater services.

Paul Evans says “The inquiry that followed the Havelock North water crisis established a clear need for change. The new regulator will create consistency and focus on what has become a significant issue for Councils and residents right across the country.

“The distribution of clean drinking water is made more difficult in New Zealand by our geography. Meeting the high standards required for drinking water can become an expensive process in areas of low population density.

“Following the Havelock North water crisis, it became clear that the delivery of quality drinking water to many areas of the country was well below the public’s expectations. The sector must now step up and respond to this challenge.”

The Government announcement included a provision that transitional arrangements will be put in place which will allow water suppliers up to five years to adjust to the regulations.

Paul Evans says “While this proposal is a definite step in the right direction, we also need to be future-focused and ensure this new legislation is fit-for-purpose. The impact of climate change, increased community expectations around environmental outcomes and recognition of Maori rights and interests in freshwater must also be considered.

“Local government and industry representatives must work collaboratively to deliver a quality outcome. This should be done fairly and equitably, recognising that some communities will struggle to meet the financial challenge of upgrading their networks. These communities may need support to meet the standards expected by New Zealanders.

“It is vitally important that lessons are learnt from the Havelock North water crisis. We must get the basics right and ensure clean and safe drinking water is available for all kiwis.”

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