Poor drinking water safety findings reflect long term lack of investment

4 April 2022

The latest findings that one in five New Zealanders are supplied with water that is not knowingly safe to drink reflects a legacy of under investment in water infrastructure and the water workforce.

Water New Zealand chief executive Gillian Blythe says the findings of the Ministry of Health Annual Report on Drinking Water Quality 2020-2021 which showed that more than 20 percent of New Zealanders received drinking water that failed to comply with drinking water standards is no surprise to people working in the sector.

“This is not a new situation. Those of us in the water sector have been voicing our concerns for sometime and that’s why we have welcomed the establishment of the new drinking water regulator, Taumata Arowai.

She says the Ministry of Health findings are an inevitable consequence of a long term failure to adequately invest in our water infrastructure and our workforce.

“That’s why it has been estimated we will need to invest $120-185-billion over the next 30 years to address the infrastructure deficit, provide safe drinking water for everyone and ensure that healthy water is put back into the environment.

She says as well as the infrastructure deficit, another 6-9000 people will be required throughout the country over the next three decades.

“We need many more skilled workers – from treatment plant operators through to engineers, planners, scientists and so on.

“Our latest National Performance Review shows there is already a ten percent vacancy rate across the sector so we need to address this through increasing awareness and ensuring that we can provide a good career pathway.”

That’s why Water New Zealand has been working with Waihanga Ara Rau, The Department of Internal Affairs, Taumata Arowai and Connexis to develop a workforce development strategy, Ko Wai Tātau We are Water, that will help to identify what we need to do to increase the workforce capacity.