I have presented at so many water conferences this year I’m not surprised to hear people say “its great that you are taking such a keen interest in waters infrastructure”. I totally get what they mean, after all when you consider that drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure is about pipes under the ground – how can that be interesting?
The truth of the matter is that I take a whole of system or Māori worldview about water – after all water is water right?
I entitled my speech to the conference Three Waters and a Case for Change but perhaps to deepen the context I referred to the words of my late father who set the blueprint for much of our tribes recent development journey in the Waikato when he said:
“Ngā awa itiiti e pa ana ki te wai o Waikato, ko ngā uaua o tō tātou awa.
Tō tātou awa, he manawa. Nō tātou te awa, nō te awa tātou.
E kore e taea te wehe te iwi o Waikato me te awa. He taonga tuku iho
nā ngā tupuna. E whakapono ana mātou ko tā mātou, he tiaki i taua
taonga mo ngā uri whakatupu”.
“All the little streams and the rain that flows into the Waikato River are like the veins of the body. The river is our heart. The River belongs to us just as we belong to the river. The Waikato tribe and the River are inseparable. It is a gift left to us by our ancestors and we believe we have the duty to protect that gift for future generations”.
You see whether we talk about freshwater, rivers, lakes and oceans, they are all interconnected.
People want to be able to drink tap water without the worry of becoming ill.
New Zealanders do not want to see wastewater polluting their local river, lake, beach or shellfish beds.
They need to know that our infrastructure is being designed and built to take account of climate change; and that it is resilient in the face of natural disaster.
Those who live in areas of small populations which routinely see huge seasonal tourism influxes want assistance to meet the associated infrastructure demand.
We see water as critical. Our national aspirations depend on it.
Community expectations and regulatory requirements add to the need for change.
For all these reasons and more, there is an opportunity to think about how we might continue to improve the way in which reliable, safe drinking water can be delivered throughout the country and how by investing in drinking, waste and storm water infrastructure we can continue to improve environmental outcomes.
International evidence tells us that a strong regulatory environment across the three waters which set high standards and an increased focus on the way water services are delivered will enable significant gains. I’m working with the Local Government sector, water industry, engineers, planners and iwi to figure out the best approach.
Their feedback will inform a cabinet paper that will be considered by Ministers in order to determine next steps. your welcome to send us your feedback on a survey we have compiled or go to the DIA website for more information.