Councils calls for register to prevent legionnaires’

City councillor Yani Johanson said it was hard to understand why the previous Government had not taken the issue more seriously given the loss of life and the harm it caused.

Councils across the country will lobby for a mandatory register of water cooling towers to prevent the spread of legionnaires’ disease after a Woolston outbreak in 2005 led to the deaths of three people.

The city council-proposed remit passed at the Local Government New Zealand conference on Sunday after 95 per cent of members approved the plan.

Its submission called for annual testing of the towers and enforcement powers for councils to ensure it is done. The change would allow health authorities to pin-point the source of a water-based outbreak, and ascertain the health of each tower to enable early intervention.

LGNZ will now lobby central Government to make the change.

Legionnaires’ is a pneumonia-like infection and can be caught from exposure to contaminated water in air-conditioning units, plumbing systems or cooling towers.

Woolston’s 2005 outbreak saw 19 infected with the disease, which led to three deaths.

A subsequent coronial investigation recommended better regulation of industrial, water-based cooling towers with monthly testing and a mandatory register.

The city council’s remit document said the previous Government had started work on the recommendations, but later paused it.

Linwood Ward city councillor Yani Johanson said it was hard to understand why the previous Government had not taken the issue more seriously given the loss of life and the harm it caused.

“I am optimistic with the new central Government and strong support from LGNZ there is now a good case to get urgent action on this important issue.”

Another Woolston outbreak in 2015 left six people hospitalised.

Auckland Council already has a bylaw requiring towers to be registered and tested.

Cr Johanson said if central Government did not act, he would pursue a local bylaw.

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