Northlanders’ future access to safe drinking water is under threat without major spending on water infrastructure that only bigger management organisations can afford.
That’s the warning from Brian Hanna, three waters steering committee independent chair.
“There’s a risk of failure to meet safe drinking water standards, with potentially serious consequences for public health, the environment and the economy.”
Hanna said millions of dollars was needed to maintain and upgrade Northland’s infrastructure for safe drinking water into the future – part of as much as $574 million needed nationally.
They are among 67 providers countrywide the Government wants to reshape into just half a dozen entities in New Zealand’s biggest ever water sector shakeup.
Hanna helms the local and central government steering committee with a key role in making the industry shakeup happen.
Campylobacter in Havelock North’s drinking water in 2016 killed several people and made more than 5000 sick.
Hanna said risks such as this were being addressed through Government plans.
He said the larger groups could more easily fund huge required infrastructure spend for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater – known as three waters in the sector reform.
Hanna was in Northland recently (SUBS: July 21) as part of a nationwide 12-centre roadshow working on major reform of the way New Zealand’s wastewater, stormwater and drinking water is managed. The roadshow started with a workshop in Auckland.
About 30 people including Northland’s Mayors, council chief executives and managers attended the across-council workshop in Whangarei.
Northland’s reticulated drinking water, wastewater and stormwater is currently largely provided by Far North District , Kaipara and Whangarei District Councils.
A supersized water management entity combining Far North District , Kaipara, Whangarei District Councils and Auckland Council (which runs its water sector through giant council controlled organisation (CCO) Watercare) is frequently signalled for the top of the North Island. Auckland has 1.57 million people, Northland 180,000.
Hanna said major infrastructure spending was needed to meet new 2018 drinking water standards as a result of Havelock North. Many water treatment plant consents were due to expire and major spend would be needed to bring them up to these new standards so they could get a new consent to operate.
This situation was replicated around the country as New Zealand’s ageing wastewater, stormwater and drinking water came up for replacement at huge cost.
The cost of doing this was already too great for some councils to bear. That problem would worsen into the future.
Significant extra costs would also be involved in making sure Northlanders’ right to clean beaches without sewage spills into the future.
The Government’s just announced $761 million towards the reforms. This is to be split between councils as a sweetener towards the shakeup but councils must agree to sign up to participate in the water sector reforms to get a slice of the money.
Hanna said the new bigger top-of-the-north water management entity would have representation from each council, this weighted on a population and area basis.