A Hastings mayoral candidate says heads should roll after an offer made by a local contractor in January this year to drill a new safe, chemical-free drinking water bore at Romanes Park in Havelock North for no cost was rejected by the Hastings District Council.
Stuart Perry said he obtained information under the Official Information Act (OIA) that a reputable Hawke's Bay business had offered to drill a new bore into a safe aquifer and install state-of-the-art UV treatment at no cost to the council or ratepayers.
"Instead of taking up this philanthropic offer, the council turned down the proposal and instead spent ratepayers' money putting in a chlorine filter unit at Romanes Park, and, worse than that, people are misled into thinking the unit removes all chlorine when it doesn't."
He said a free source of water at Romanes Park would have been an asset for locals, people attending sports events, cyclists and walkers on the trail and locals who preferred fluoride-free water, which would likely be reintroduced after chlorination stopped.
In OIA documents supplied to Hawke's Bay Today, the managing director of the company that made the offer outlined the specifications of the proposed new bore and water filling station and the UV system that would be used.
He noted the Drinking Water Assessors (DWAs) would need to have input into the final specifications and it was important that a site selected was suitable for all parties.
In response, group manager asset management Craig Thew said that after the offer was made on January 10 the council sought feedback from the DWAs.
In their response they warned that the council would have to consider a number of public health and public relations issues if it were to accept the offer.
These included questions over how the council would demonstrate the water coming from the bore was safe, how the council would manage the draw-off from the bore and monitor how many people were accessing it, and that the council may have to meet additional regional plan or resource consent requirements.
They also warned that the council would have to plan for what would happen if people used non-sterile containers to collect the water and the possibility of the bore being vandalised would need to be considered.
In addition a Water Safety Plan would need to be created and the council would have to cap the number of people using the bore to fewer than 500 a day, and prove the numbers that were accessing it.
A council workshop was then held on January 25 where councillors were told that DWAs would need to assess the offer, and that they would probably face questions from the community as to why a similar water supply could not be provided in Flaxmere and Hastings.
Despite the bore being secure, following the Havelock North water inquiry the council was currently not allowed to supply water without chlorine for urban supply, they were told.
Following the workshop, the offer was rejected in favour of providing drinking stations with chlorine-removing filters, which Mr Thew said carried significantly fewer administration and compliance issues but provided a similar outcome.
Mr Perry said he was "gobsmacked" that petty bureaucracy had seen the offer turned down, and added the company involved was bitterly disappointed.
"They had brought one of their bigger rigs from out of town to do the drilling, secured all the equipment for treatment and readied their team to do the job, so confident the council would accept the offer to do the work as a free gesture to the residents of Havelock North."
He believed the cost of the chlorine filtration unit (for the filling station the council had supplied at Romanes Park) was about $6000 and he suspected the council would have doubled that with its "in-house" installation charges.
A council spokesman confirmed yesterday that the cost of the unit at Romanes Park was $2000 and the assessed internal cost for installation was $2260.