Director-General statement on drinking-water

The Ministry of Health is reminding all drinking-water suppliers of their legal responsibility to provide safe water - including considering treating water.

Media release

20 December 2017

The Director-General of Health has today issued a formal statement reminding water suppliers of their statutory responsibilities set out in the Health Act 1956.

The formal statement recommends reconsidering reliance on ‘secure bores’ and warns that the public risk is increased if drinking-water is untreated. Councils and DHBs have been advised to seek information from public health units on the need to disinfect any drinking-water supply that is currently not being treated. The Ministry strongly advises water should be treated, with chlorination the safest treatment option.

There are currently 9 medium or large sized networked water supplies which supply non-disinfected ground water, serving a combined population of around 380,000.

Water Supplies Registered Population
Christchurch Central 185,000
Kaiapoi 12,615
Lincoln 5,400
North West Christchurch 80,000
Parklands, Christchurch 16,000
Rangiora 17,923
Riccarton, Christchurch 10,000
Rolleston 12,292
West Christchurch 42,000
Total 381,230

Issuing a formal statement to drinking-water suppliers is one of the recommendations from the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry Stage 2 Report.

The inquiry found that the term ‘secure supply’ was a misnomer. One of its key findings was that any untreated supply carried risk and the Inquiry recommended immediate treatment of all untreated water supplies.

All Council suppliers have received a copy of the stage 2 inquiry report and their recommendations.

The Government has indicated that there will be a formal response to the inquiry due early next year.

The Ministry of Health is already putting in place a number of improvements to the drinking-water framework. 

They include:

  • Setting up an independent expert panel to assess changes to the drinking-water system as recommended by the inquiry
  • Writing to all drinking-water assessors to reinforce their statutory responsibilities
  • Working more closely with International Accreditation NZ to review the laboratory testing and sampling regime for drinking-water
  • Arranging further research into risk levels of protozoa in water supplies
  • Reviewing current drinking-water standards
  • Considering a review of the Health Act
  • Discussing with DHBs resourcing for drinking-water assessors.




I, Chai Chuah, Director-General of Health, for the purposes of protecting public health and informing the public, issue the following statement.   

In August 2016 an outbreak of campylobacteriosis arising from contamination of the Havelock North drinking-water supply affected around 5,500 people.

The Government Inquiry into the contamination event is now complete and the Stage Two report has provided important recommendations for the safe management of drinking-water supplies in New Zealand.

The Inquiry identified that the outbreak was caused by contamination of ground water that was provided to consumers as untreated drinking-water. The Inquiry identified that several parties with responsibility for the water supply system failed to adhere to the high levels of care and diligence necessary to avoid this occurring and to protect public health. Improvements to the drinking-water framework have been identified and need to be actioned.

I advise all drinking-water suppliers and drinking-water assessors that:

  • Protection of drinking-water sources is of paramount importance and a founding principle of drinking-water safety;
  • Every drinking-water supplier must contribute to the protection of drinking-water sources;
  • The risk to the public is increased if drinking-water is untreated;
  • To provide adequate protection to public health, suppliers providing drinking-water to untreated networked supplies should consider implementing appropriate and effective treatment without delay; and
  • They should reconsider their reliance on secure bore water status as a means of providing safe drinking-water.

Chai Chuah

Director-General of Health

in Wellington this 20th day of December 2017.

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