All New Zealand tap water in cities and towns is safe to drink and generally of very high quality.
In most towns and cities the reticulated water supply is also fluoridated, to assist in hardening children’s teeth for extra dental protection. This practice has been controversial with a small percentage of New Zealanders, however the balance of evidence for benefits over proven concerns has seen this practice adopted not only in New Zealand but in other countries worldwide. The government case for fluoridated water is summarised by the Ministry of Health. (www.moh.govt.nz/fluoride)
Fluoride free towns
It is possible to live in a fluoride free town. Two far north towns, Kaikohe and Kaitaia, voted in 2010 to be fluoride-free. The results of this choice will be watched with interest as the Far North already has relatively poor dental health standards for children, due to a range of potential causes.
Streams and rivers
It is now accepted that many of New Zealand’s once pristine freshwater streams and rivers have levels of contamination making them unsafe for drinking, and in some cases for swimming.
The general cause of this decline has been a lack of monitoring, regulation or enforcement of standards, to a large degree initially based on a perception of over-abundance of this valuable resource.
For the latest official reports and a range of contacts and other resources relating to the rehabilitation and future preservation of New Zealand’s waterways, visit the Ministry for the Environment. (www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/water/water-quality.html)
Despite ‘tap water’ in New Zealand being entirely safe, the bottled water phenomenon is well established.
Approximately 70% of electricity generated in New Zealand comes from renewable energy sources such as hydro and geothermal power stations. This is expected to increase in the years ahead, with the rapid increase in applications for Wind Farms.
In keeping with its nuclear-free policy, New Zealand has no nuclear power stations.
Electricity – Most homes use primarily electricity for the bulk of their energy needs. The power system is 240 volts, 50 cycles. Electricity is generated by several large power companies which are state-owned enterprises. These are stand-alone companies that operate independently in the market, but are owned by and return dividends to the Crown. For more information about New Zealand’s electricity system, visit the Electricity Authority (www.ea.govt.nz/consumer/)
Gas – ‘Natural gas’ is reticulated to some areas in some towns and cities. The variation is likely to have resulted from variations in demand at the time subdivisions have been gazetted or services first supplied. Gas is prized by many chefs and the growth of cooking as an entertainment in recent decades has seen gas companies develop delivery and replacement services which mean gas cooking and heating can be achieved in most cities at fairly competitive rates.
For more information about New Zealand’s gas supply visit the Liquid Petroleum Gas Association (www.lpga.co.nz)
Solar – Many areas of New Zealand are suitable for solar power generation and when used in conjunction with wind (and sometimes bottled gas) it is possible to live ‘off-grid’.
For more information about solar energy in New Zealand visit the Solar Industries Association (www.solarindustries.org.nz)
Coal – New Zealand has substantial reserves of lignite (brown coal) in the South Island which are a potential source of both energy and controversy. Currently there are no formal plans to develop this resource, but public debate continues.
For more information about coal in New Zealand visit the Coal Association of New Zealand (www.cleancoal.org.nz)
Wind, tides and waves – Wind power is a well-established energy resource, with substantial wind farms already operating in the Manawatu area outside Palmerston North, in Wellington. There are also several other sites at various stages of planning or construction.
In addition there is strong support in some areas for more research and trials of wave and tide power generation options, however progress is still at an early stage in most cases.
For more information about wind power generation is the New Zealand Wind Energy Association (windenergy.org.nz/nz-wind-farms/nz-wind-farms)