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LGNZ welcomes new regulator, but affordability a concern

LGNZ welcomes the establishment of a drinking water regulator, a move councils have long been calling for, and commends central government for strengthening its long-neglected stewardship role in the provision of safe drinking water.

“The Havelock North water contamination incident revealed a significant weakness in the drinking water system, namely that the Ministry of Health was not policing drinking water standards adequately or assessing whether the standards were fit for purpose in the first place,” said LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“In addition, private water networks and self-supply households were exempted from meeting any drinking water standards, meaning that almost a million New Zealanders were drinking water from water sources with little or no regulatory oversight.”

“The establishment of a dedicated drinking water regulator, whose duty it will be to establish standards, monitoring compliance, and bring non-council drinking water networks up to the new standard, will go a long way to closing these loopholes.”

“We’re grateful that Minister of Local Government has been receptive to local government’s input into the policy-making process, which has ensured that the focus has remained squarely on improving public health outcomes in the first instance.”

LGNZ however cautioned that careful work is still required to ensure that the standards and timeframe are appropriately set to ensure the communities can afford the investments needed to meet the new benchmarks.

“There are a number of policy initiatives on the go that have significant cost implications for councils, and by extension ratepayers,” said Mr Cull.

“These unfunded mandates may be manageable on an individual basis and over a reasonable timeframe. But taken together they represent a tsunami of costs that hit as the economic cycle starts to lose momentum, potentially swamping many communities across the country.”

These policy initiatives include the Three Waters Reform, Essential Freshwater, Billion Trees, and Zero Carbon programmes, each of which either impose additional regulatory costs on councils or impact on the economic performance of specific sectors.

“Councils overwhelmingly support the environmental, economic and climate change aims that central government is trying to achieve, but we need to work closely together so that we don’t place demands on the system that are unmanageable,” said Mr Cull.

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