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Sat September 25 2021

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New Zealand faces mounting costs for water upgrades

24 Oct 18 Raising the standards of wastewater treatment plants that discharge into New Zealand’s rivers and lakes could cost up to NZ$2bn (£1bn), according to a new report.

Minister of local government Nanaia Mahuta said that the new report continues to build a picture of looming potential costs as the government seeks to ensure safe drinking water and better environmental performance of the country’s wastewater infrastructure.

The report by GHD and Boffa Miskell, Cost estimates for upgrading wastewater treatment plants to meet objectives of the NPS Freshwater, has been released today as part of the larger Three Waters Review.

The estimated NZ$2bn price-tag does not include the costs of upgrading infrastructure for discharging to beaches and coastal environments, added Mahuta. Nor does it cover the unknown but potentially even higher costs of preventing wastewater pollution on beaches and in urban environments through stormwater overflows.

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“We already know that the cost of infrastructure upgrades to meet drinking water standards is in the region of $500 million,” she added. “When you put all this together with other factors such as increasing tourism numbers and protecting our clean green image, the infrastructure requirements associated with population growth, changing consumer expectations, climate change and the need to build in resilience against natural disasters, it suggests a significant funding challenge ahead for councils and communities.”

Work on the Three Waters Review is complex and far-reaching but is progressing well, she said. “I think there is a good level of agreement across the local government sector on the need to address drinking water safety with a new regulatory regime, as recommended by the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry.

“We are also working hard on how we can improve environmental performance and having discussions with the sector and other interested parties. Upgrading wastewater treatment plants are part of this and the GHD-Boffa Miskell report provides some of the data required to help to inform that conversation. There are more gaps to fill in, but it adds to the picture of mounting costs,” said Mahuta.

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