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Ask Phoebe: Drinking rainwater carries risks in city

By Phoebe Falconer

1 comment

Council concerned about bacteria from roofs and tanks.

Photo / Capital Community Newspapers
Photo / Capital Community Newspapers

A recent Element magazine article said only rural areas can use rainwater for drinking and that city councils won't allow it. Why is this? Surely with a filter in place it should be suitable?

Steve Peterson, Auckland.

An Auckland Council spokesman says rainwater itself is fine, it's the infection from bacteria from roofs and tanks that causes the problem.

Council has no problem with people who want to use rainwater as potable water, but they may have to show how they meet drinking water standards, and they may have to have a note put on their LIM or title to the effect that this is how the potable water is being supplied. This acts as a check for any potential buyer.

The problem with infection in urban areas, as opposed to rural, is that the risk of transmission is greatly increased because of the bigger population. A spokesman for Watercare says that it has no problem at all with city residents choosing to drink rainwater.

I would like to find where Oxford St in Remuera would have been. My grandfather went to World War I with the NZ Tunnelling Company and his military records show his address was Oxford St, Remuera. The current maps do not show a street of this name in Remuera.

I would appreciate any information available.

Doug Pickering, Auckland.

According to the Auckland Museum street records, Oxford St is now called Ara St. It was named after Ngati Whatua chief Te Ara Tinana who lived in the Orakei area in the 1830s.

The name was changed in 1916.

And here's a bit more about the tunnellers, courtesy of Heritage New Zealand's quarterly magazine: [They] arrived at the Western Front between 1916 and 1917.

Numbering fewer than 1000, the unit included bushmen, labourers, quarry workers and engineers with tunnelling know-how, as well as those who had had some experience in mining.

They received basic military training, learning how to fire a rifle and use a bayonet, but they were in Europe to dig, not to shoot, and their mission was by its nature to keep out of sight. Guile was the main asset, trying to foresee the movements of the enemy with a bugging device called a geophone.

The work began for the New Zealanders in trenches near Arras, where they attacked the chalk layer in eight-hour shifts.

Later they were tasked by the British High Command with finding old quarries under Arras - a town in the north of France - as a prelude to the innovative Arras offensive in which the Allies attempted to break through German lines by launching part of the offensive from underground.

By the time of the attack, the network of tunnels had grown large enough to conceal 24,000 troops.

The bulk of the digging, using picks and shovels, was done by the New Zealanders.

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