Gastro outbreak: Government help with water inquiry welcomed

By Victoria White

Lawrence Yule says he welcomes the Government's involvement.
Lawrence Yule says he welcomes the Government's involvement.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is welcoming Government involvement in a major investigation of the gastro outbreak.

Following the outbreak Hastings District Council announced it would undertake an investigation into the cause of the contamination of Havelock North's water, to ensure it could not happen again.

Yesterday Prime Minister John Key said the Ministry of Health would be taking part in the inquiry.

We would welcome the Government's involvement.
Lawrence Yule, Hastings Mayor

A Ministry spokesperson said it was working with the council over its plans for an inquiry into the outbreak, but could not provide further detail as it was early stages.

Acting Minister of Health Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said he had been assured by the ministry that it would work alongside the council, "to probe into what went wrong, how it went wrong, when it went wrong, and what can be done to fix the issue that is at hand".

Last night Mr Yule could not reveal any information about the planned investigation, but hoped an announcement on it would be made today.

He could not give any indication on the timeframes around an investigation as council was still in discussions around that.

Mr Yule said the council had wanted the Ministry's help for a number of reasons, firstly to make sure the health perspective from the Government was considered.

"But also we want to make sure that if there are some learnings from this, these can be applied across New Zealand so this can't ever happen again," he said, "we would welcome the Government's involvement and in fact I've signalled that to them from the very earliest conversations."

During a debate in Parliament yesterday, Tukituki MP Craig Foss, Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri, and Napier MP Stuart Nash signalled their interest in being part of the investigation.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson did not rule out the possibility the council would also assist.

He was not sure what path the investigation would take, but said the council was there to help.

Read more:
Gastro: Authorities mystified by outbreak
Gastro: Previous investigation revealed
Gastro outbreak: Havelock North illness NZ's largest

"Lets just fix the current issue and then look at how we might be a part of [the investigation] or not going forward. We want to find out what happened here as much as anyone else does," he said.

The not-for-profit organisation Water New Zealand said the industry would welcome an inquiry into the event, as it would allow a dialogue on a range of issues related to urban water treatment - including the absence of any Government financial support for small rural communities to upgrade their water treatment systems.

The Ministry of Education is also currently monitoring schools outside of Havelock North for signs of the illness, as a number of students and staff travel to other schools in the area.

All Havelock North schools will be closed today, with a review this afternoon.

Five early childhood education services were also due to close today.

The ministry had been informed absences in the Havelock North area doubled between Friday and Monday.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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