BIG changes how Southland’s drinking water supply is managed are likely, Water New Zealand environmental scientist Jim Graham says.
Speaking at a seminar held by Water New Zealand representatives at the Kelvin Hotel last month, Mr Graham said councils should put aside money to fund upgrades of water purification and delivery systems and make sure drinking water supplies complied or risk prosecution.
About 20 people, including staff from various local councils in the south, attended the seminar, which focused on recommendations of the report from the official inquiry into the campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North last year, which killed three people.
“If we do nothing, I can guarantee you another Havelock North will happen. I can tell you 10 areas in New Zealand where that could happen now. Out of 67 districts, I can guarantee you 60 of these wouldn’t comply [with national standards] now,” Mr Graham said.
Water New Zealand technical manager Noel Roberts said the report had recommended the creation of a new, independent national drinking water regulatory body with the power to prosecute for compliance failures.
The Government would reveal its plan for how drinking water will be supplied in New Zealand soon.
“We’ve been assured that by mid-year Water New Zealand will get a response from government on all the issues raised in the inquiry,” Mr Roberts said.
Southland District Council (SDC) strategic manager for water and waste Ian Evans said of the 12 community water supplies operated by the SDC, 11 had multiple barriers of protection.
Plans were in the advanced stages for upgrading the 12th (Riverton).
“Following the release of the inquiry’s report in December, we included an additional amount of around $750,000 for a further upgrade at the Riverton water treatment plant.”
Invercargill City Council (ICC) water manager Alister Murray said the ICC had just undertaken a $12 million extensive upgrade of its Branxholme Water Treatment Plant.
“The [Havelock North inquiry] report is just that – it’s a report at this stage. The technical aspects they were concerned about don’t apply to our system because we have the barriers in place already.”