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Advocate criticises National and ACT’s stance on protecting Aotearoa’s drinking water

14 September, 2023

Interview by Beth Torrance-Hetherington, adapted by David Liwei Shi

Organiser and Spokesperson for Choose Clean Water, Marnie Prickett (pictured), says National and ACT have “little to no plans” to protect Aotearoa’s drinking water sources, and believes it would be a “step backwards” if they are elected to government. 

A recent government inquiry into the Havelock North water contamination incident highlighted that at least 800,000 New Zealanders are drinking water that is deemed unsafe. 

The inquiry came after the widespread outbreak of gastroenteritis in Havelock North during 2016, which resulted in 5000 people falling ill due to the presence of E.Coli in local water supplies. 

The Public Health Communication Centre recently surveyed different political parties’ about their plans to protect Aotearoa’s drinking water sources. 

The centre determined that the Green Party, Te Pāti Māori, and the Labour Party, have the best plans to tackle Aotearoa’s drinking water issues, while the National Party and the ACT Party had little plans to protect drinking water. 

The ACT Party recently pledged to remove waterway protection frameworks like Te Mana o te Wai if in government. 

ACT Party leader, David Seymour, stated  that they do not believe Te Mana o te Wai improves the environment. 

Te Mana o te Wai was introduced in 2020 by the Labour Party, requiring councils to prioritise the health of the environment and provision of drinking water in their decision making, ahead of commercial use. 

Organiser and spokesperson for Choose Clean Water, Marnie Prickett, told 95bFM’s The Wire, that the inquiry should be a “wake up”, and believes National and ACT’s stance on waterway protection could be “a really big step backwards” for water source protection.

“It’s really important that we remember the findings of the Havelock North inquiries.” 

“I think for a long time, people haven't quite realised how vulnerable our drinking water is, and then we suddenly realised in the most serious of ways when lots of people got sick. Some people even lost their lives because of it.”

The National Party has not announced any plans to remove the Te Mana o te Wai framework.

But Prickett notes that National intends to scale back regulations and the national environmental standard for drinking water so they can reduce compliance requirements for commercial water usage. 

“Currently, it is not clear whether National will take Te Mana o te Wai away. They have listed it in their agricultural policies as one of the regulations that the Labour Party brought in.” 

Prickett strongly encourages people to be informed of each political parties’ water protection stances, and to vote in the upcoming elections to maintain current water source protection frameworks. 

“I think drinking water is something we should all be interested in, if not thinking about.” 

“It will be valuable, not just in the short term, but also long term as well.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air