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Government funding signals pathway to safer drinking water


8 July 2020

Water New Zealand says the Government’s $761 million investment in drinking water infrastructure will provide much-needed assistance to help ensure safe drinking water across the country.

Water New Zealand President Kelvin Hill says there is a huge amount of investment needed across the three waters (drinking, storm and wastewater) networks.

“We know that there are systemic problems in the way drinking water has been delivered and we want to ensure that any changes will result in what is best for the delivery of water services right across the country.”

“We are keen to work with both central and local government to ensure a ‘no-regrets’ transformation.”

He says there are a lot of challenges facing the water sector.

“These include the need to meet the requirements of the new regulator, Taumata Arowai, along with new freshwater standards, carbon reduction targets, and significant infrastructural investment including upgrading wastewater treatment plants.

Today’s announcement signals the next stage in major water sector reform following the recommendations of the Havelock North water contamination inquiry.

Currently there are 67 public water suppliers and many of the smaller providers struggle to meet standards and maintain infrastructure.

The Government wants to see larger scale multi-regional water entities.

Kelvin Hill say that restricting the new funding to councils that opt into the Government’s reform programme will provide a big incentive for them to begin discussions over merging into larger regional entities.

And he says the new environment will clearly mean more professional opportunities for people working in the water sector.

“We know there’s a skills shortage.”

“The water sector will require significant investment in jobs and training and there will be no shortage of employment opportunities.

“Water New Zealand has been working with our partners on a professional registration for water industry professionals as well as a new Water New Zealand Competency Framework for people working in the water sector.

“We want to make it clear that this is a great industry to be working in.”

He says Water New Zealand also welcomes the allocation of $30-million to support rural drinking water supplies to meet safety standards.

“Many of these suppliers have struggled to supply safe drinking water.”