3 Waters Reform reasons not factual.

This from ex-Southland Regional CEO Ciaran Keogh:

abridged to meet FB word limit.

Sent: Thursday, 21 April 2022 3:14 p.m.

To: morgan.godfrey@otago.ac.nz

Cc: j.ardern@ministers.govt.nz; opinion@stuff.co.nz; rebecca.ryan@oamarumail.co.nz; Christopher.Luxon@parliament.govt.nz

: re your 3 waters article in Stuff 21 April

Kia ora Morgan

I find it ironic that you have fallen victim of this government’s propaganda on 3 waters considering your claim that The Three Waters reforms are subject to a good deal of fake news, Facebook speculation, and outright racism – your failure to research the veracity of the Ministers claim has resulted in you doing a wonderful job of spreading fake news yourself . I acknowledge there has been some pretty awful commentary about 3 Waters – a lot of that arises because many people can see it as a really bad idea but don’t have the knowledge to attack it any other way. 3 Waters is relying on fake news rather than facts to progress its agenda – the “cartoon” on TV was a gross (offensive) misrepresentation of the present situation, the claims about the levels of water borne disease in NZ are fanciful speculation, and the insinuation that this disease burden is caused by council owned water supplies is not supported by any factual evidence and ample factual evidence to refute the claim.

The statement that According to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, ‘each year approximately 34,000 people fall ill from drinking water, and thousands of households are required to boil their water in order to drink it safely. Absent reform, those numbers will only increase’ is a complete fiction that is relates to private water supplies, not to council operated infrastructure…

There is ample evidence of waterborne disease outbreaks in New Zealand to indicate a significant risk of contracting GID from drinking-water that is untreated or inadequately treated. An average of 16.8 waterborne outbreaks (range from 6 to 27) occur annually, affecting an average of 145 cases/year (range from 18 to 370). While the largest reported waterborne outbreak affected 3,500 people (Queenstown, 1984), the number of cases involved in most outbreaks is small, averaging nine cases per outbreak in 2001-2005, and is smaller than other countries for which data are available. This probably reflects the larger proportion of water supplies serving small communities in New Zealand compared to most other developed countries. This is consistent with the relatively poor compliance with the DWSNZ of the small community drinking-water supplies compared to that of the larger community supplies.

Based on currently available data, two separate estimates of the burden of endemic drinking-waterborne gastro-intestinal disease are ca. 18,000 and 34,000 cases per annum…

Firstly those numbers are fiction – they represent the upper end of an “estimate” of the annual number of gastro-intestinal infections from drinking contaminated water. This figure comes from a Ministry of Health report that stated that the author estimated that between 14,000 and 38,000 cases of GI was caused by contaminated drinking water the report – so even with that flimsy basis the Prime Minister was overstating things by claiming that at least 34,000 people get sick each year from drinking tap water – the report implies that at most 34,000 people get sick from contaminated water each year.

The information contained in that report is substantially speculative and grossly misleading, the worst historical outbreaks in NZ (Havelock North and Queenstown) were from untreated council supplies … In both cases the problem was easily foreseeable, and the resolution quite straightforward and not expensive in the context – simple UV treatment and competent management of the bore field would have removed the risk in Havelock North…

This finding also contradicts an earlier MOH report (An Integrated Approach to Infectious Disease Priorities for Action 2002-2006 (November 2001 Ministry of Health) that was actually based on research into infections from all transmissible sources. This report stated that … Although drinking-water in New Zealand is now very safe for the majority of New Zealanders and water-borne enteric disease is rare, maintaining current quality standards requires ongoing monitoring and preventive action. In addition, some poorer rural communities, as well as institutions such as rural schools, hospitals and marae, still lack good-quality water systems…

None of the information contained in the MoH report reflects the current risk situation in New Zealand from properly maintained and operated council owned and operated water treatment supplies. By taking the Ministers words as gospel you have become an unwitting mouthpiece for government propaganda. If our water supplies were as bad as 3 waters implies there should be a raft of hard data to support it – in fact there is none – only very creative misrepresentation of the facts by various vested interests (and I don’t include Maori interest here – I am a strong support of Iwi involvement in water policy development at a regional level). If 3 Waters was justifiable I would expect there to be ample factual evidence in support – the fact that its advocates have to grasp at straws, misrepresent the facts and use grossly emotional imagery and overstatement – only lends support to the conclusions that the initiative is a really bad idea. There are certainly water supplies and water treatment services that need work but they need work on a case by case basis on not on the basis that most schemes are problematic. Expenditures on public infrastructure also need to be made on a value for money basis – do you get better public health outcomes from spending $10s of billions on hospitals, safer roads, community poverty reduction, or water and sewer – the pot of gold is not unconstrained – I think you would find that NZ was far better off making investments in hospitals and poverty reduction long before in investing in any but a few water schemes. And then the communities involved should be fixing up their own infrastructure – why should the rest of us who have paid our way support those who have chosen not to – some schemes are simply uneconomic – it would be cheaper better and healthier to simply service them with roof tanks and household UV and filtration – I personally have lived on such systems for the past two decades – and I can assert honestly that it is cheaper than the more marginal community schemes – even if a tanker or two of water has to be purchased each year to top the supply up.

The 3 waters initiative also fails to consider the harm it will cause to local government as it removes core public service functions from within local government and away from direct community control. It also fails to consider that much of the issues with water generally occur at a higher level – at regional and central government through a lack of sound policy at both national and regional level – regional councils must have to be considered to be a failed concept after 30 years of not doing their job – but also central government does not hold any of these agencies accountable for their performance – there is lots of palming off of responsibility from the senior level of government without passing on sufficient resources/ let alone any system of audit or accountability for performance. 3 waters is simply another bad idea that ignores the facts, fails to address the real need for reform of local and regional government, and as usual fails to critique the fundamental failure of central government to provide leadership to and require accountability of, its subordinate agencies.

Ciaran Keogh

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