Now that she's tamed the fearsome Titewhai, and brought peace to the battlefields of Waitangi, here's one final challenge for miracle-worker Jacinda. Bring drinking water fountains to New Zealand's playgrounds and parks.

The challenge comes from Professor Nick Wilson of Otago University in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal following a survey of lower North Island parks revealed that only 11 of 54 children's playgrounds had drinking water available. In Wellington City, the percentage was down to just 6 per cent.

It's a similarly grim picture further north. An Auckland Council spokesman says that of its 817 parks with playgrounds, only 16 per cent had drinking fountains, and that overall, only 183 of Auckland's 3695 parks – 5 per cent – had drinking water available.

With temperatures soaring, and the epidemic of rotting teeth and obesity from sugary drinks spreading amongst our young at an alarming rate, Wilson's call for a Government regulation requiring a water fountain at each playground seems an obvious "public good".


Though why stop at playgrounds. Why not free drinking water in areas of major pedestrian traffic as well. If the Auckland Town Hall and Aotea Centre can both provide cooled free water inside the venues, why not the same outside. Admittedly, I recall one half hidden fountain, about knee height, out in Aotea square, but in a city connected directly to the mighty Waikato River, it is a miserable rarity.

Professor Nick Wilson's call for a Government regulation requiring a water fountain at each playground seems an obvious
Professor Nick Wilson's call for a Government regulation requiring a water fountain at each playground seems an obvious "public good". Photo / Stuart Munro

This miserly behaviour is widespread. The Auckland Museum, for example, while encouraging school parties, emphatically warns in their guideline notes to teachers, that "there are no drinking fountains. Bring water/drink bottles ..."

And blogger Thakur Ranjit Singh highlights that if the kids make it back from the museum on to the public rail and bus network without expiring, they're dead out of luck there as well. Despite Aucklanders making more than 90 million trips a year on public transport these days, he's found just two water fountains on the whole network, a lone one at the Britomart transport centre in downtown Auckland and a low-pressure fountain at New Lynn.

There are none, for example, at the "recent multi-million showpieces at Otahuhu and Panmure." None along the Northern Busway. Says Singh: "People are forced to drink from toilets as no separate hygienic free water is available ..."

He suggests Mayor Goff sends his planners on a junket to Third World Fiji where "all municipality markets and bus stations throughout Fiji have separate pipes and free water for its thirsty citizens - not in toilets. "

A trip across the Ditch would highlight that our First World neighbour also provides free water to thirsty locals and tourists alike. In downtown Melbourne and Sydney – where they're called "water bubblers" – fountains are dotted around the streets and parks. Sydney Council even has an online map for the thirsty so you can pull out you phone and identify the closest oasis. Which makes perfect sense.

As civic services go, providing water to the passing traveller, or playing youngster, seems one of the most obvious, and basic. And when you see the millions being spent on unused and unloved cycleways, Auckland Council can hardly cry poor.

But sadly, as I've written before, we Aucklanders are weirdly reluctant to celebrate our good fortune – and the great engineering feats – that have combined to endow us with a wonderful supply of fresh water. Not for us, the fate of the thirsty folk of Cape Town, who like ostriches, buried their heads in the sand as their water slowly ran out.


We have dams to the South and the west, and following a big scare a few years back, a pipe now firmly plugged into the country's largest river. But unlike the ancients, who celebrated their water engineering feats with mighty aqueducts and glorious public fountains and baths and the like, we bury ours underground and fret about wasting it.

Over Christmas there was even some curmudgeon whining about people "misusing" the Mission Bay fountain - one of the few public fountains in the city - by leaping in and having fun during the heatwave.

We have plenty of water. Please Jacinda. Make us use it for the public good.