A&F Bulletin - Drinking water quality a complex issue

Monday, July 20, 2015

We all agree that access to clean drinking water is a necessity here in New Zealand.
It was therefore with interest that I met with the Seddon Water Group last week to discuss what has been, for many years, a big issue for a small community.

An issue which looks set to finally be resolved following the Marlborough District Council’s approval of $23.2 million in its Long Term Plan to upgrade water in Awatere-Seddon, Havelock and Picton.

When work on Seddon’s water treatment plant is completed, for which $3 million is budgeted, Seddon residents will finally be able to drink water straight from the tap without boiling it first, something most of us take for granted.

Unfortunately, small communities have a small ratepayer base to support the significant cost of large projects like improving drinking water.

In this case, Council has agreed to spread the operating costs of water schemes to water users across Marlborough, not just Seddon.

This has made it affordable. It also tackles drinking water in other small towns like Havelock, where salt seeps into the supply, Renwick and Picton.

In fact, it is a problem right through the Kaikoura electorate: Amberley residents have also come to me with drinking water problems.

As any long-term Awatere resident will tell you, water quality is not a new issue by any means.

The length of time it has taken to resolve Seddon’s drinking water problems shows it really is quite a difficult issue. If it were simple, it would have been dealt with ages ago.

In 2007-08, it almost was. The Council was granted a subsidy of $2.24 million from the Government, which the Council topped up with a further $2 million to build the proposed $6.8 million upgrade and treatment of the water supply in its draft annual plan.  However strong community concern about the water rates increase led to the community requesting that the project be deferred to explore other solutions.

As we have learned, there are no cheap solutions and neither the Council nor Government is an endless supply of money. The money has to come from taxpayers and or ratepayers; it cannot be plucked out of thin air.

Farmers, of course, or people living in the country, still look after themselves when it comes to water as they have done since New Zealand was settled. Largely with no real issues, they have learnt how to manage it.

But it’s different for residents in small towns, where each property does not have its own water supply.

When Seddon drinking water is finally up to standard, it will be a great relief for residents.

Many challenges have to be overcome to get there, but it is my hope that, in the future, everyone in this electorate will be able to drink from their taps without a second thought.