“There are cases of contamination that happen all over the country that people don?t hear about”

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Estuary contamination


Water managers have been told they need to take a stronger lead in ensuring communities in New Zealand are supplied with safe drinking water.

Around two hundred water sector leaders and representatives attended a panel discussion on the implications of the Havelock North Water contamination crisis as part of the three day Water New Zealand Conference and Expo in Rotorua.

Some members talked about the frustration of having recommendations to treat water ignored by local government politicians despite the risks involved.

“There are cases of contamination that happen all over the country that people don?t hear about and what we?ve been hearing today is that ratepayers and politicians are not qualified or knowledgeable enough to make crucial decisions around water safety,” said Water New Zealand Chief Executive, John Pfahlert.

The conference heard how the Havelock North outbreak despite the seriousness of it, could have been even worse.

“If the campylobacter infection had taken a different form, we could have been facing a scenario where people died.”

He says the Havelock North Inquiry is a great opportunity to look at the systemic issues around what went wrong and how this can be prevented from happening again in the future.

There are the occasional “boil water” orders throughout the country, but that have never taken on the size of the one in Havelock North. ?To be honest, the one there was magnitudes bigger in its impact on the community, and it lasted much longer. ?On top of that, there was a persistent problem in not knowing how it happened. ?Not knowing how it happened means you can’t prevent it from happening again.

Not knowing how it happened also ends up casting a wide net to look for explanations.

Havelock North still hasn’t received a satisfactory answer, nor can it be sure it will not happen tomorrow.