With thousands more Queenstowners able to drink water from their taps for the first time in a fortnight, mayor Glyn Lewers says the inexperienced water services regulator over-reacted with its boil-water notice.

Regulator Taumata Arowai lifted the notice from the Kelvin Heights water treatment plant last week after the council successfully isolated the plant and supplied a water safety plan.

The move frees residents of Frankton, Kelvin Heights, Quail Rise and Hanley’s Farm to resume glugging straight from the tap.

As of noon last Wednesday, there were 61 confirmed cases of cryptosporidium, 15 probable and 19 under investigation, and with the source of the infection still to be found, the boil-water notice issued on September 20 could remain in place until early December for central Queenstown and all areas supplied by the Two Mile plant.

While efforts continue to fit the Two Mile supply with a protozoa barrier and UV filter, the Kelvin Heights plant was slapped with a boil-water notice because of doubts its existing UV filter was working properly.

Lewers says the Kelvin Heights situation was a big storm in a small tea cup over some ‘‘very, very minor’’ data-recording anomalies and flow meter irregularities.

‘‘We changed out a sensor so we had a minute of data missing — we just had to explain the reasons why,’’ he tells Mountain Scene.

Although the boil-water notice for the Kelvin Heights intake wasn’t issued until September 21, the council had separated it from the Two Mile supply two days before that, when the first crypto cases came to light.

‘‘In our view it was a compliant scheme from the get-go, and some of the requests for data from the regulator we felt were a little onerous.

‘‘Taumata Arowai is just over a couple of years old [established in March 2021].

‘‘From where I’m sitting as a governor of a water supply authority, and looking at how the regulator has reacted, I see they’re still finding their feet.

‘‘They still don’t have the institutional IP [intellectual property] — they’re still finding their way of how to regulate.’’

In town: Taumata Arowai head of regulatory Steve Taylor

Lewers says the Crown entity is using the Queenstown situation ‘‘as a way of flexing their regulatory muscle because this is the first time they’ve ever done it’’.

‘‘I think the regulator has a lot to learn, and I do get a little concerned there’s other plants in the country that have exactly the same system we have.’’

Spurred by the Queenstown outbreak, on Tuesday Taumata Arowai went public with its estimates that hundreds of water treatment plants in New Zealand, serving about 10% of the population, do not have protozoa filters.

Taumata Arowai head of regulatory Steve Taylor, who Scene understands flew into the resort last week for two days of talks with council staff and site visits, told RNZ earlier this week the body had sent letters to each water supplier asking for clarification about how they’re
treating water and managing risks in their network ‘‘and how are they monitoring and ensuring those risks are being effectively managed’’.

Taylor said suppliers had until last Wednesday to provide an update to Taumata Arowai on their filter situation.

Meanwhile, Lewers hoped to know by last Friday when the UV filters will be supplied for the Two Mile plant.

‘‘We’ve secured them, we’ve got about a week of detailed design work to do before we can put them in place, so there’s a bit of planning work to happen.

‘‘I’m hoping by the end of this week we’ll know the timings of when the kit will turn up in town.’’

He has circled December 8 in the calendar ‘‘when we’ll have everything up and running for the Two Mile area and the boil water notice lifted’’.

‘‘Not to say we’re not working with the regulator to get the boil-water notice lifted earlier; that would require us finding the source and proving it wasn’t the water supply.’’

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