A Glenorchy woman was yesterday escorted from the Queenstown Lakes District Council chambers after a dramatic performance that ended with her tipping a bottle of Glenorchy water on the chamber floor.
A group of Glenorchy residents attended the last full council meeting for the year in Queenstown to protest a decision, made without consultation, to chlorinate their water supply — and all other water supplies in the district under council control — for the summer.
Danielle Jones was the last of the residents to address the council. She placed a water bottle on the council table before announcing her name and singing Ed Sheeran's I See Fire.
After finishing the first verse, Jones approached the council table and dramatically unscrewed the top of the drink bottle, and then raised the bottle slowly towards the ceiling in her right hand. She tipped the bottle forward, resulting in a collective gasp from the packed chamber.
Water dripped on to the carpet, prompting a clearly unimpressed Mayor Jim Boult to say: "Could you not do that, please?"
But she continued.
Boult told her if she continued he would have to ask someone to remove her, but Jones did not stop until council corporate services general manager Meaghan Miller approached, again asked her to "stop doing that, please", and told her it was time to leave the chamber.
Before the protest, several residents criticised the council's decision to chlorinate the water supply.
Boult said the decision was "irreversible" and made to protect the town's residents and visitors.
It followed stage two of the Havelock North drinking water inquiry, which called for a major overhaul of water supplies and strongly recommended mandatory treatment.
Glenorchy Community Association chairman John Glover said the council could not have picked "a more divisive issue to damage the relationship we have tried to build with the council".
"If you ask what the view of Glenorchy is ... [it's] arse-covering.
"If it was about risk, you would have taken other actions."
Sustainable Glenorchy spokeswoman Trish Fraser was concerned about the process the council had followed in "unilaterally" deciding "we need chlorination for our own good".
Boult said the Ministry of Health recently issued new information and it was a council requirement to look after the health of everyone in the district.
"Put yourself in the position, having made the comments you have just made, if half the population of Glenorchy went down in the manner the Havelock North people went down in last year, with a not-unsimilar water supply source."
The Glenorchy supply was not chlorinated last summer, but council communications and engagement manager Naell Crosby-Roe told the Otago Daily Times the council had since investigated the security of the community bore heads in Glenorchy further and had "identified issues that we were unaware of last summer".
"Clear signals" had been sent to councils that they had an obligation to ensure all water supplies under their control were safe to drink.
"Chlorine disinfects water all the way from the intake point to people's taps.
"It also kills small bugs that can get through filtration systems, such as bacteria and viruses that can't be physically removed from water."