Buller District Council

Strategic Direction of Buller District Council Water Supplies

4th April, 2017

Like most districts in New Zealand, Buller District Council are watching closely developments of the Havelock North water inquiry, which may force future legislative changes to reduce the likelihood of similar contaminations reoccurring. 

At the Council meeting held 29 March 2017, two papers regarding water supplies were discussed in public excluded proceedings. The first paper addressed the strategic direction for water supplies. The second paper provided a status update for each of the District’s water supplies.

The purpose for excluding the public was to allow “free and frank” discussion between Council management and elected members. Factual debate is essential for strategic alignment, and the discussions enabled a mutual understanding of the risks and responsibilities, and acknowledged valid community concerns regarding water supplies.

Drinking water suppliers must comply with the Health (Drinking Water) Amendment Act 2007, including duties and responsibilities specified under Drinking Water Standards NZ rev 2008.

A register of drinking water suppliers is maintained by the Director General of Health under Section 69J of the Health Act 1956.  This register currently lists Council as the networked supplier for eight of our District’s drinking water supplies as follows: Hector/Ngakawau; Inangahua Junction; Little Wanganui; Mokihinui; Punakaiki; Reefton; Waimangaroa; Westport.

Chief Executive Andy Gowland-Douglas says: “For these water supplies, Council has responsibility to supply safe drinking water that complies with the Drinking Water Standards, and it is Council who is liable should any incident of non-compliance or contamination occur.  We take this responsibility very seriously and want to ensure going forward that all our water supplies are compliant and healthy.”

The most complex issue is the interpretation of ownership. It was clarified during the meeting that ownership does not mean owning the water (a natural resource), nor does it mean owning the waterworks (i.e. assets and infrastructure delivering the water, parts of which may actually be privately owned).

Mayor Garry Howard says: “Council had clarified that ownership in this context means ‘owning the responsibility’ to provide safe drinking water as the registered Drinking Water Supplier.  Parts of a water supply network not owned by the Water Supplier may nonetheless be under the control of the Water Supplier”

Group Manager Assets & Infrastructure Mike Duff presented Council with a five-point plan that is being adopted to ensure that Council complies with the relevant legislation and delivers the best possible outcomes for the community.  This is summarised below:

  1. Responsibility – Waterworks owned or under the control of the Water Supplier
  2. Authority – Relevant consents and access permissions held by the Water Supplier
  3. Application – Protection of waterworks, environment and public safety
  4. Coordination – Organised management of water supply programs of work
  5. Implementation – Best-practice processes for delivering water supply projects

For some water supplies, the funding successfully obtained via Central Government’s Drinking Water Subsidy Scheme (CAP) is still available.  Council agreed that delivery of these capital works projects is a high priority to ensure the money is spent before expiry.

Group Manager Assets & infrastructure Mike Duff says:  “As the registered drinking water supplier for eight supplies in the District, Council accepts its responsibility of taking practicable steps to provide a safe and adequate supply of drinking water. This will be achieved through the new strategic direction and our five-point plan”

A separate update will be released next week providing a status update on each of Council’s water supplies.


For more information please contact:
Mike Duff
Group Manager – Assets & Infrastructure
Buller District Council



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