Gastric outbreak inquiry avoiding the issue of land use

The Government’s Inquiry into the Havelock North gastric outbreak is squandering an opportunity to address how land use affects drinking water, the Green Party said today.

“The inquiry should have two parts; one to look at the immediate problem in Havelock North, and another to look at how land use and water management contributes to E. coli and waterborne disease contamination,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

“Disease-causing E. coli and campylobacter bacteria have been reported in water supplies in other parts of the country in recent years, including Patea, Hanmer Springs and Christchurch, in addition to the outbreak in Havelock North.

“The Government should take this opportunity to assess how land use affects drinking water supplies. Instead it’s avoiding looking at the real causes of pollution.

“National seems to think that if they look at sources of pollution they might not like what they find, and their strategy of exploiting the environment for short term gain will come under scrutiny.

“The type of land use in a community, for example agriculture, industrial or urban, affects the cleanliness of water in underground aquifers and bores – so we need the inquiry to take these activities into account.

“At present 15 percent of New Zealanders get their drinking water from bores and other unregistered supplies, so saying that we could just chlorinate every registered supply will not protect those dependent on bores.

“The Government has an opportunity to take strong action on safe drinking water and protect the health of communities with this inquiry – but they’re avoiding it,” said Ms Delahunty.

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