New Zealand government announces $761 million water package upgrade

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced a multi-million dollar investment to upgrade under-pressure water systems across the country.

The $761 million package aims to kick-start urgent work to bring drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure up to scratch.

The announcement was made at the site of the water bore that was found to be the source of the fatal Havelock North campylobacter outbreak in 2016.

The government’s financial investment is contingent on local councils opting into the Government’s wider water reform programme.

“Nationally the estimated capital costs of upgrading drinking water treatment plants to meet health standards is between $309 and $574 million. The investment will help to cover some of these costs,” Ardern said in a statement.

Four years ago, over 5000 people got sick and up to four died in the Havelock North campylobacter outbreak and we don’t want to see that happen again, she said.

“Our problems with drinking water aren’t limited to the Hawke’s Bay. At least 34,000 New Zealanders become ill from drinking tap water every year and many communities around the country cannot drink their water without first boiling it.”

She stated that the COVID-19 outbreak has put additional pressures on local government. Councils require assistance to maintain or renew infrastructure.

“Today’s announcement will lend the reform programme’s initial stages very real impetus and Councils will need to sign up to the wider reform agenda in order to access the Government’s funding. We want to see new arrangements made that provide scale in the form of public multi-regional water entities – and take account of catchment-related and communities-of-interest considerations,” Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.