Government Inquiry into water contamination

The Hastings District Council has welcomed the findings of the Government Inquiry into the contamination event that affected Havelock North’s water supply in August 2016.

Mayor Lawrence Yule particularly acknowledged the Inquiry findings regarding the cause of the contamination which was based on the work of the science caucus established by the Inquiry.

“The findings indicate the very strong probability that the gastro outbreak was caused by contaminated surface water from a pond in the headwaters of the Mangateretere Stream entering into what was previously believed to be a secure aquifer through a hole in the confining layer,” said Mayor Yule.

“This resulted in contaminated water being sucked into the water supply through Brookvale Bore One while it was operating in the normal manner.”

“The Inquiry is clear that Hastings District Council did not cause the contamination to occur,” said Mayor Yule.

The Council has also acknowledged the wider findings of the Inquiry, particularly those that point to deficiencies in Council’s water supply operations.

“While not the cause of the contamination and gastro outbreak, the Inquiry has examined and highlighted a number of areas where Council’s performance was not up to standard”, said Ross McLeod, Hastings District Council Chief Executive.

“These include maintenance inspections and maintenance record-keeping, the standard of planning and contingency documentation required under the New Zealand Drinking Water Standards, compliance with requests from the Drinking Water Assessors, and the effectiveness of working relationships with other agencies involved in drinking water safety.”

“Council is fully committed to addressing and fixing the deficiencies highlighted by the Inquiry to ensure the safety of drinking water in the future,” said Mr McLeod. 

“Clearly there are also lessons and improvements to be made to the national framework and industry practice for managing drinking water,” said Mr McLeod.

“We look forward to sharing what we have learnt with stage two of the Government Inquiry so that others can learn from this and the country can avoid any repeat of this sort of contamination event.”

Mr McLeod outlined a range of initiatives either underway or already in place to ensure drinking water safety and to address shortcomings uncovered during the outbreak and through the Inquiry process. These include:

More water testing.
Engaging international independent expertise on drinking water safety.
Installing a treatment plant on Brookvale Bore Three.
Making financial provision for further treatment plants across the network, along with funds for investigating new water sources and increasing network capacity.
Improving risk management and legal compliance systems.
Participating in the Joint Working Group on Drinking Water Safety.
Further age testing of aquifer water.
Reviewing Council’s water operations to ensure the adequacy of the capability, capacity, systems and resources. This is underway and will be finalised and reported to Council within the next month once the Inquiry findings have been carefully studied and considered by the review team.

“This event had a huge impact on our community,” said Mr Yule.

“We feel deeply for those people affected by the outbreak, particularly those families who lost loved ones and those that are afflicted by ongoing impacts.  We are already in the process of addressing Inquiry findings, and we will keep the public and the Inquiry informed as we do,” he said.