The final report of the Havelock North Inquiry into the gastro crisis was released yesterday amid much fanfare.
It has given quite a valuable insight into how unsecure our water is in many parts of New Zealand and how vulnerable we are. The report says there may be more than 720,000 people drinking unsafe water throughout the country.
It is quite a startling figure and makes one realise there is a lot of work to be done to rectify the situation. The Havelock North gastro crisis was a real wake-up call for the country and certainly put paid to the idyllic theory that we could simply sink a hole into the ground and pure, fresh, drinkable water would come gushing out.
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How we move forward from a disaster that made 5000 people sick and with which three deaths were linked is the important question.
On the face of it the inquiry's recommendations are good and could serve as a blueprint for safe water management and distribution in the country.
There are some really practical ones such as prohibiting new below-ground bore heads and requiring every waster supplier to have emergency response plan and boil water notice documentation. Others are bigger picture ideas like abolishing the secure classification system, creating dedicated and aggregated drinking water suppliers and mandating universal treatment.
Then there is the big plan to establish a drinking water regulator that would set the standard for the country. In theory this is great, but unfortunately bodies like this often become mired in bureaucracy and often perpetrate the very problems and mistakes they were set up to eliminate.
What is needed is a strong regulator that sets the standard and allows water management to be a smooth process.