Ministry of Health puts in place measures to improve drinking water quality

Media release

06 December 2017

The Ministry of Health has considered the findings of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry, Stage 2, released today, [6 December], acknowledges the significant recommendations in the report and is taking action.

Acting Director of Public Health Dr Stewart Jessamine says the Ministry has put in a concerted effort to address the issues raised by Stage 2 of the inquiry.

“The report identifies the importance of safe drinking water and vulnerabilities in our current system which we need to address.

“There will be an all-of-government response that will report back to Ministers in early 2018 and the Ministry will contribute to that response.

“Since the hearing for Stage 1 of the Inquiry in August 2017, the Ministry has now put into action a number of changes to address some of the key findings and recommendations.

“While we know that most New Zealanders are drinking safe water, we know that more needs to be done.1

The Ministry’s actions include:

  • setting up an expert, independent panel2 to assess changes to the drinking water system, as recommended by the Inquiry. The panel held its first meeting on 4 December
  • writing to all drinking water assessors on 18 August 2017 to reinforce their statutory responsibilities
  • working more closely with International Accreditation New Zealand to review the laboratory testing and sampling regime for drinking water
  • arranging further research into risk levels of Protozoa in water supplies
  • reviewing current drinking water standards
  • considering a review of the Health Act
  • holding discussions with District Health Boards’ Public Health Units about drinking water assessors’ resources.

“These steps are the beginning of a concentrated effort by the Ministry to address concerns from the Inquiry,” says Dr Jessamine.

“Most drinking water suppliers are meeting drinking water quality standards and where they are not they are generally small suppliers whose communities are struggling to afford the infrastructure. The Inquiry’s recommendations will prompt work that will help address this.”

 “We will consider the Inquiry’s detailed findings further over the coming weeks.

“We also look forward to the recommendations of the expert panel, which held its first meeting on Monday.”

¹ Annual Report on Drinking-water Quality 2015-16

² The six members of the panel are: drinking-water scientist Dr Jan Gregor, drinking-water assessor  Matthew Parkinson, Water New Zealand Chief Executive John Pfahlert, environmental microbiologist and former Queensland Director of Water Supply Regulation Heather Uwins-England, public health engineer Andrew Watson, water services manager Brett Chapman.