We’re a first world country . . . right?

Today’s news comes courtesy of SunLive, a local Bay of Plenty news service. I’m not sure if any major news services have picked it up, and if they have there hasn’t been much of a fuss made. It’s just that the government has decided that small town New Zealanders don’t have the right to clean water.

Oh, it’s not put like that, of course. It’s just the downsizing and eventual winding up of the Drinking Water Subsidy Scheme, which doesn’t sound like such a big deal really. Well, I guess it’s not, if you don’t live in one of the affected communities.

This means that there are small-town schools where kids can’t drink from a drinking fountain because the town water supply isn’t safe to drink and needs boiling before use. Maybe that’s not third-world – after all, the water at least looks clear most of the time – but it’s not good enough for a country that prides itself on being able to stand amongst the best in development.

The scheme subsidised towns with populations of less than 5,000 to bring their drinking water up to scratch. By the end of June all water supplies serving more than 100 people need to comply with the clean drinking water legislation, but in reality, it’s not happening fast enough and taking this funding away perpetuates the problem of poor quality drinking water for many poorer communities who cannot afford to upgrade their water to the legal standard.

We should not even be discussing the problem of undrinkable water in New Zealand. Between being ‘clean and green’ and being a developed, ‘first world’ country, it should just not even be a topic that needs to be tabled. Clean water is a minimum standard that every New Zealander is entitled to, and the government needs to step up to the plate and make this a reality. Every kid should be able to get in trouble for drinking straight out of the tap not because it might make them sick, but because that’s not what good children do!


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