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Communities forced to stomach water woes

Confirmation by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman that he is to wind up a water quality improvement scheme will leave thousands of Kiwis with no alternative but to continue boiling their drinking water, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

The Drinking Water Subsidy Scheme was established by Labour in 2005 to improve drinking water systems in communities with up to 5000 people. National revised the scheme in December 2010 - reducing both the criteria and funding pool, forcing ratepayers to pick up additional costs for water improvements – and will scrap it completely in July.

“New Zealand is supposed to be a First World country, yet information obtained by Labour shows thousands of Kiwis continue to be at risk of getting sick because they don’t have clean drinking water.

“In three months’ time all water suppliers that service a population between 101 to 500 people are expected to have ‘taken all practicable steps’ to meet legislative clean-water standards. Currently just 20.7 per cent of them receive water that’s up to scratch.

“Cabinet papers also reveal the Ministry of Health is expecting some 38 applications to be made for a slice of the last $10 million annual funding pool. So far 15 requests for help have been received for a total $15 million.

“To top it off a private company has started a scheme to install free water filtration systems in schools across the country following concerns from a number of rural communities affected by water compliance issues.

“Schools will have to pay for replacement filters every year.

“Once again we have some of our least prosperous communities having to pick up the cost for something the Government should be dealing with.

“New Zealanders like to think we have a clean, green country. When many are still having to boil drinking water to avoid getting some ghastly stomach bug, something is dreadfully wrong. The Government needs to keep the scheme going.”