Hastings District councillors and Hawke's Bay Regional councillors were asked: "What is the one top learning you took from the Havelock North water crisis?"
Hastings District Council:
"The health and wellbeing of our community is our council's most important responsibility. Safe, clean drinking water is our council's No 1 priority. The Hastings District Council and the HB Regional Council must work together in partnership to ensure the best outcome for the health and wellbeing of our people."
"The one top learning I took from the gastro crisis is that it's the basics and fundamentals that matter. Water is crucial to people and the safe delivery of it one of council's core fundamental responsibilities. Outstanding deficiencies in process need to be fixed asap and hard work done to restore and ensure public confidence in these matters."
"I wasn't a councillor when the water crisis occurred but I've been involved in the decisions since. I think it was a huge wake-up call for all involved in providing safe drinking water. I think there was complacency prior and processes have now been put in place now that should ensure that this never happens again. Our ratepayers (our customers) deserve to be able to have access to good quality and safe drinking water. There's still plenty of water to go under the bridge yet though as we need to identify new water sources and improve the reticulation network."
"Collectively we all have to take a good hard, honest look at ourselves re the way we treat our environment. Mother Earth has had enough."
"Water is our most precious commodity and we can no longer take its quality for granted. Almost everything that we formerly believed about our aquifer is questionable. The consequences of not being vigilant about our water standards are very serious for our people. There is absolutely no room for complacency."
"One top learning from the water crisis is - we now know that we cannot just sit back and let the water continue to flow without undertaking the proper investigation and actions to ensure that the water quality cannot be compromised at any time. If we have said that we didn't know that before when we should have, well now there are no excuses, we dam well know this time."
"Check the accuracy of everything we are told. Try and join the dots even where there seems to be no connection."
"Looking ahead, it is important to get all the entities involved in the provision of drinking water working together to ensure this can never occur again."
"Perhaps as a community we had become too complacent believing our aquifers to be pure but the sad fact is our municipal water supply now has to be treated. From my perspective we need to better understand the underground aquifer system, move to develop a reliable source for Havelock North water and increase the network capacity from Hastings to Havelock North to provide for peak demand."
"The gastro outbreak has reinforced that the HDC MUST prioritise its core business, including drinking water. We cannot get diverted into other issues until we have our water, waste water, waste disposal, roads and planning functions right. I am concerned that until the water problems occurred council was not focused on superb provision of core services because it was distracted by other issues. These issues quickly disappeared when one-third of Havelock North got sick from our drinking water."
"I was elected after the Havelock North campylobacter event but I think the top learning for me has been that now we can't assume that our aquifer water is safe at all times and that we will need to continue with the frequent maintenance, monitoring and testing regimes which have been put into place to ensure we continue to supply clean, uncontaminated water."
"With New Zealand's exposure to climatic change and natural disasters we can no longer take anything for granted or assume anything. We have to continually ask the why and the how questions. In today's media and social media climate there is no longer any excuse for poor communication. All networks need to be linked and strengthened. Water quality issues are not only confined to Havelock North. It is a New Zealand-wide problem and we should all be concerned at the current state of our waterways and use local, national and international expertise to get it right."
The security of our source water, and the ability to provide safe drinking water to our community was compromised in an unprecedented manner with terrible consequences.
Safe water is a core responsibility of local authorities. The learning from this is the reality that water sources previously thought to be safe and secure, can be contaminated. Now new source water must be located to service Havelock North in particular. New water safety mechanisms have and will continue to be introduced between source and the beginning of the reticulation system to ensure water at your tap is safe. HDC have budgeted multi millions of dollars to ensure we never experience another gastro crisis.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council:
"You can never be too sure of yourself or your systems and we need to continually challenge ourselves, our neighbouring councils and the people around us. We are all responsible, not just our staff who were at the coalface, in not doing this as well as we should have and a whole lot of people got very sick because we collectively didn't get it right. The other thing that I learnt was that our systems need to be transparent and seamless with all the other councils in our region. We need to know what each other are doing and share intellectual and engineering know how."
"The key learning is there are real challenges being the 'regulating' council in the supply of water to our communities. We monitor the consent but the supply of water is managed by the territorial councils and consent conditions need to be adhered to by them. This includes an understanding of all consent conditions and who is responsible for what. Going forward we need better lines of communication with the territorial councils and the DHB to deliver clear reporting regimes that ensure this does not happen again."
"The Havelock North experience has reinforced a number of points for me. We need to have an open mind when members of the public raise concerns with us, that open and honest communication between councils (staff and elected members) is vital, and that we should not be afraid of putting our hands up and taking responsibility."
"We should never again take clean, safe water for granted; the threats have been real and growing. And there are too many 'cooks in the kitchen', making it far too easy to pass the accountability buck."
"Vigilance and diligence - the councils responsible for providing our people with safe drinking water, something we treasure, let their guard down. We must be unfailingly diligent and ever vigilant to protect this trust and deliver without exception what is expected of councils as of right."
"We ALL have to make sure that we never again become complacent about local government's probably most important function - the provision of reliable and safe potable water for human consumption."
"The most concerning thing for me was the response of the Hastings District Council. HDC went to extraordinary lengths to deny responsibility for one of the most serious failures in public administration since Cave Creek. Instead, it chose to spend millions trying to deflect blame. HDC pointed the finger at the aquifer, when there was overwhelming evidence that its own bore infrastructure had failed. Not only was their negligence in the maintenance of the bore infrastructure, HDC took a damning decision not to spend money on its water supply upgrade back in 2012. HDC failed to disclose this fact to the inquiry. There was failure from top to bottom and still no real ownership of the problem. The Regional Council also fully deserved the severe inquiry criticism. We failed (including me as a governor at the time), to ensure our consenting and compliance regime was robust and effective. This failure in public administration should bring about a sea change in how our council's engage. Even the "no blame" finding of the Inquiry itself was a failure. The outcomes in this sad saga suggest patch protection in Hawke's Bay is here to stay."
I think everything has already been said and I stand by our chair's comments.
"Higher levels of co-operation between local authorities responsible for delivering safe water. We need to work closer together."