Havelock North water inquiry postponed

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Inquiry chair, the Honorable Justice Lyn Stevens QC. PHOTO/FILE
Inquiry chair, the Honorable Justice Lyn Stevens QC. PHOTO/FILE

The inquiry into the contamination of Havelock North's drinking water will be postponed until late January 2017, because of a legal battle between two Hawke's Bay councils.

This evening, the inquiry released a decision to adjourn the inquiry evidence hearings until the week beginning January 30, 2017.

On Friday it was announced the Hawke's Bay Regional Council had laid two charges against the Hastings District Council for unlawful taking of water.

The next hearing for the inquiry, at which evidence would be heard from core participants, was due to be held on Monday at Hastings District Court. On the same day, in a separate courtroom, the district council would be called for their charges.

Yesterday the district council applied for the postponement of the inquiry until after this prosecution had finished.

In its application, it cited the disruption to staff caused by the charges which meant evidence could not be filed on the due date - November 18.

The council's legal representative also advised the inquiry that he had concern the laying of charges at this stage of the inquiry process could prejudice the council, and those employed by it.

This included the allegations in the prosecution over matters the inquiry could be examining - the summary of facts accompanying the charge sheet from HBRC alleged the contaminated water entered the bores via insecure cable ports and glands in the wellhead, alleging that as a result, a significant number of Havelock North residents became ill.

Although there were a number of factors the inquiry stated weighed against a postponement - including that the resulting substantial delay would mean the reporting date of March 2017 could not be met - it resolved to postpone.

In its decision, the inquiry stated although they had not been persuaded a full postponement of the inquiry was justified, "we consider it would not be fair or appropriate to require the Hastings District Council to participate in hearings commencing in (now) three working days time".

They stated they would be proceeding with the hearings on the week of January 30, regardless of the positions of the prosecutions.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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