The inquiry into the contaimation of Havelock North's drinking water is underway.



The Honorable Justice Lyn Stevens QC opened the hearing, by detailing the inquiry's terms of reference, and a preliminary timeline.

"Today is about procedures, and getting the show on the road," he said.

He has called for appearances from interested parties, but noted that just because a party had not appeared at Hastings District court today, did not mean the inquiry would not receive submissions from them.

Those who have appeared include Hastings District, and Hawke's Bay Regional Councils, the Hawke's Bay District Health Board, MWH New Zealand ltd, and Crown Law on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Ministry for the Environment, and Department of Internal Affairs.

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Local residents, and representatives of organisations and lobby groups were also present.
In his submission, counsel assisting the inquiry Nathan Gedye QC said he supported conducting the inquiry in two stages, and set out the issues of focus in both stages.

The outbreak, regarded as one of the largest campylobacter from water supply, might be related to the death of three people, one of which was being investigated by the coroner, the contracting of guillian-barre syndrome by three people, and the development of reactive arthritis by others, he said.

The event led to a loss of confidence in Havelock North water, and given rise to questions around untreated water in New Zealand.

Speaking on the role of participants, Mr Gedye suggested all parties provide information for a number of issues relating to stages of the inquiry.

It was not expected that all participants would have information to contribute on all issues - Mr Gedye gave the example of the regional council who would have information relating to the Brookvale Bores, while the HBDHB would have facts around the outbreak itself.

In his view, "this inquiry should focus only on what matters, and what should be learned for the future".

The inquiry would look at fault, but not at criminal, civil, or disciplinary liability.

Matthew Casey QC then appeared on behalf of Hastings District Council. If counsel found the district council to be at fault, he said council would do all it could to restore confidence in the community in its drinking water.

He said the council was probably more anxious than any other party to find out what had happened, and fully supported the inquiry, and the terms of reference.

They mostly supported the conducting of the inquiry in two stages.

Mr Casey said council hoped the inquiry would focus on the finding of facts, and evaluation of fact, than fault.

"Council does not want...the inquiry to become a finger pointing exercise, we're here to find the facts," he said.

He detailed the field investigation conducted by council into the cause of the contamination, which included the undertaking of groundwater modelling, tracer testing, and further investigation into the third Brookvale Bore which had been closed at the time of the outbreak.

Hawkes Bay Regional Council chief executive Andrew Newman discussed the councils role, and what the council was currently doing in relation to the outbreak.

He said they were equally as concerned as the district council to "get to the bottom of this".

It was hoped their independent investigation would be completed by late November.

Their lawyer, Mai Chen, outlined the regulatory responsibilities of the council as relating to drinking water.

Ms Chen said it was a "sensible proposition" to conduct the inquiry in two parts.
Representative for the HBDHB Peter Chemis said they agreed with the two stage approach, and wished to be designated as a core participant.

Speaking on behalf of the three government ministries, crown counsel Bernadette Arapere said all three supported the two stage approach.

The Ministry of Health saw itself as having a role in both stages of the inquiry.
The Ministry for the Environment and Department of Internal affairs saw themselves as having more of a role in the second stage.

All three were preparing back ground papers on their regulatory regimes, and roles and responsibilities in relation to drinking water.