New Zealand: Water, water everywhere - but not a drop to drink

Following the August 2016 outbreak of campylobacteriosis in Havelock North, the Government established an inquiry to investigate and report on the outbreak. The Stage One Report was released on 8 May 2017 and identified what happened, the cause of the outbreak and provided an assessment of the people and agencies responsible for providing safe drinking water to Havelock North.

The Stage Two Report was released last week on 6 December 2017 and outlines the nationwide risks involved with the current drinking water supply systems. The Inquiry's Report is wide reaching and makes significant recommendations on legal and regulatory changes necessary to prevent and minimize similar events from occurring. Further, there are numerous operational practice changes recommended in relation to the monitoring, testing and the management of water supplies for safer drinking water. The recommendations in the Report are not binding but will be highly influential as they respond to the risks associated with continuing under the current regime.

The Inquiry based its recommendations on the following principles (adapted from the Australian Drinking guidelines):

  1. There should be a high standard of care and diligence, as there are in other services that have risk of causing sickness, injury or death on a large scale.
  2. Protection of the source of water is of paramount importance.
  3. There must be multiple barriers protecting water against contamination.
  4. Change precedes contamination. This means there is higher risk of contamination after periods of change, including extreme natural events such as earthquakes, floods, snowfalls.
  5. Suppliers must take responsibility for the safety of drinking water.
  6. A preventative risk management approach must be applied.

Some recommendations of interest made by the Inquiry are summarised in this article. The full report (and recommendations) can be found here: https://www.dia.govt.nz/Government-Inquiry-into-Havelock-North-Drinking-Water.

Mandate the treatment of drinking water
The Inquiry has found that the risks of untreated drinking water are too high to allow for untreated water throughout New Zealand. In reference to the principles above, systems need multiple robust barriers and treatment is a fundamental measure that needs to be taken. The Report has recommended that appropriate and effective treatment is legislated nationally, through Drinking-water Standards NZ 2005 (DWSNZ) or through statute. Provision should be made for exemptions to mandatory treatment only in very limited circumstances.

This aspect of the recommendations has already received considerable attention and it will be interesting to see what the new Government proposes in relation to the recommendation.

Amend the RMA to expressly recognise drinking water source protection
The Report recommends under the principle of protecting source water, that section 6 and section 30 of the RMA are urgently amended to protect the sources of drinking water. Amendment to section 6 is recommended to recognise the protection and management of drinking water sources as a matter of national importance. This is to sharpen the focus of policy makers, as Part 2 of the RMA guides the development of national, regional and district planning documents.

An amendment to section 30 is also recommended to expressly recognise the protection and management of drinking water sources as a specific function of regional councils. The Inquiry has recommended that the word 'protection' in this case should encompass the identification and understanding of the risks to drinking water sources and the addressing of those risks. A review of the National Environmental Standards for Sources of Human Drinking Water is also recommended.

These changes will likely provide further tools for regional councils in relation to managing water quality, but also in relation to the complex issues associated with managing land use impacts on sources of drinking water.

Improve the compliance and accountability of drinking water providers
The current regulation for drinking water standards is the DWSNZ. The Inquiry found there are exceptionally low levels of compliance with the DWSNZ. Data from the annual compliance reports between 2009 and 2016 show nationally there are 759,000 people who are supplied water that is not demonstrably safe to drink (20 percent of those suppliers serving 101 or more people).

There are a number of recommendations to improve compliance: the Director General of the Ministry of Health has been recommended to put into place a clear and effective enforcement policy including the issuing of compliance orders to urgently improve compliance levels by suppliers. Further recommendations include a review of the DWSNZ, a review of water safety plans held by all water suppliers and a licencing and qualification system for drinking water suppliers and operators.

Introduce a drinking water regulator and joint working groups
The Inquiry found that due to the involvement of multiple health and environmental agencies in the regulation of drinking water, there are issues of collaboration and cooperation in management that are compromising the safety of drinking water.

In response to this, the Report recommends a single drinking water regulator be established . The regulator should be independent of the Ministry of Health and have overarching responsibility for licensing and qualification of water suppliers, standards and practice, and monitoring, compliance and enforcement.

Further, the Report encourages DHBs to establish joint working groups comprised of relevant agencies (regional councils, district councils and other water suppliers and district health boards) to be responsible for the oversight of drinking water safety in their respective regions. These entities would coordinate directly with the drinking water regulator. We expect that the working groups could be modelled on a voluntary joint working group that was established in Canterbury between relevant agencies following the Havelock North outbreak.

A single dedicated drinking water supplier
Another solution offered in response to the deficiencies in drinking water supplies is to establish aggregated larger dedicated water suppliers rather than having numerous smaller suppliers. This would enable single focus and dedicated resources enhancing the safety and robustness of drinking water supplies.

Conclusion
These are just some of the urgent changes that the Inquiry recommends. Further recommendations, including long term changes, are detailed in the Report. The Minister of Health, the Hon Dr David Clark is seeking urgent advice to put to Cabinet before Christmas on the action that Government will take in response to the Report.

It will be interesting to see which of the recommendations are prioritised and how the Government proposes to address the inevitable issues associated with the multi-agency responsibilities for the provision of drinking water in New Zealand. Watch this space.

Download article in PDF format

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions