By Rhea Dasent, Federated Farmers Regional Policy Advisor
I’m disappointed that the Water Services Bill has passed its third reading in parliament with no exemption for small rural suppliers, despite Federated Farmers’ best efforts.
At first it appeared to be an oversight that a farm water supply like my family’s was captured by a Bill that appeared intended for large community and municipal suppliers.
The Bill requires water suppliers to register as a water supplier; develop a water safety plan; set up a consumer complaints scheme; and carry out compliance steps ad infinitum to the satisfaction of the new centralised water authority, Taumata Arowai.
The option for small rural suppliers is to install an “acceptable solution” and then the water safety plan and complaints scheme aren’t needed.
But just what an “acceptable solution” is in terms of treating the water at the household isn’t clear, and will differ depending on the nature of the small rural supply.
My worry is that what we think an acceptable solution is, will be entirely different to what Taumata Arowai thinks.
I can understand how a municipal water supplier like Hastings District Council needs this Bill to avoid a water contamination event happening again.
This Council can take 15.25 million cubic metres per year to supply urban areas.
With a network of 24 bores, three springs, 530 kilometres of pipe, 32 reservoirs and 10 booster stations, and a chain of responsibility many people long, the structure of a water safety plan makes sense to this Council.
Likewise, a complaints authority to assist the occupiers of the 23,000 houses and businesses that are connected to this supply is understandable.
But there is no way you can compare my family farm system of one bore providing three houses and livestock with drinking water, with Hastings.
The Government claims this bill will transform drinking water safety, and says that it will prevent the 34,000 people who get ill from drinking unsafe water every year.
But the safety of my water has never been in question. I wonder how many of these 34,000 people were from small rural supplies.
We’ve always managed our water just fine with no help from the Government.