Wellington Water turned off fluoride at two plants last year without telling the board, councils, or residents. Photo / 123RF
Heads are yet to roll at Wellington Water, despite a damning report revealing water in the region hasn’t been fluoridated properly for six years.
There has, however, been a new appointment to the water company’s board, after it was found none of the directors had practical or leadership experience in water services.
A review was launched after revelations Wellington Water turned off fluoride at two plants last year without telling the board, councils or residents.
It found fluoride was administered effectively less than 20 per cent of the time at those plants, which supply Upper Hutt, Porirua and Wellington City residents.
The Herald asked Wellington Water whether anyone had lost their job, considering the extent of the failure and, if not, why it was appropriate for those in leadership positions to remain.
Wellington Water Board chairwoman Lynda Carroll said the board’s approach in commissioning the inquiry was not to apportion blame.
“It was to determine what went wrong, how it went wrong and to identify issues, resolve them and deliver on our responsibilities for the future.
“I am confident that the governance and management teams will do so,” she said.
They have accepted “collective accountability” and have already implemented significant change, Carroll said.
“However, there are performance issues that we will address as part of our normal performance management processes.”
Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The inquiry found Wellington Water had lost sight of the importance of fluoridation in favour of providing safe drinking water.
Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said it was disappointing Wellington has had low and inconsistent levels of fluoridation in the region’s water supply for years.
“However, I welcome the efforts Wellington Water is making to reinstate fluoridation, and to implement recommendations of the report.”
Verrall said the Ministry of Health was developing a process to better monitor the levels of fluoridation in drinking water.
She said this was to ensure levels met those required for optimum oral health protection.
Wellington Water is working towards reinstating fluoridation by September this year.
The board will implement all of the review’s recommendations, including that Wellington Water should have a relentless focus on fluoridation, Carroll said.
“That work, along with significantly expanded performance reporting will provide the public and councils with the assurance that we have learned from this experience and are delivering on our obligation to fluoridate drinking water.”
Another recommendation was to ensure the board has the right collective experience and knowledge to govern effectively.
The review found none of the directors had water services experience so when it came to fluoride, the board “did not have the expertise to identify the gap and the issue wasn’t visible to them”.
Alexandra Hare has now been appointed to the board and brings more than a decade of experience in leadership of water operational engineering divisions.
She is currently the water industry leader for engineering, design and advisory company Aurecon.