Charges laid against Hastings District Council following gastro investigation

By Victoria White -
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Charges have been laid during the course of HBRC's investigation into the Havelock North Water contamination. PHOTO/FILE.
Charges have been laid during the course of HBRC's investigation into the Havelock North Water contamination. PHOTO/FILE.

Charges have been laid against Hastings District Council for alleged offences uncovered in the course of a Hawke's Bay Regional Council investigation into the contamination of Havelock North drinking water.

E.coli in the Hastings suburb's water supply caused about 5200 people to become ill in August and two elderly women, with underlying medical conditions, died while sick with campylobacter.

The regional council's extensive investigation into the source of the contamination and the condition of water supply bores in the area found evidence of a breach of the maintenance conditions of "the party's" resource consent.

The council said it could not legally name "the party" until after a court appearance in case name suppression was sought.

However Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule has confirmed the council is the party.

It will appear at Hastings District Court on November 28 at 9am. The second hearing of the Government inquiry into the gastro outbreak will commence the same day, an hour later.

"I'm disappointed particularly in the timing of it but a prosecutionary action by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council is very much a second order issue. We are supporting the inquiry [and] the inquiry is the appropriate body and system to determine what has occurred here," Yule said.

"We will respond to this prosecutionary action. It's unfortunate that the hearing is on the same day as the start date of the inquiry and that in itself is disappointing because we are trying to get all the information we need for the inquiry, and we have a completely open mind as to what may have occurred.

"Nonetheless the regional council have chosen to do that and we'll have to respond to it."

The bores in question are on Brookvale Rd.

"My understanding is it's a technical breach of the resource conditions of the bores one and two," Yule said.

If a breach is proved, the resource consent no longer permits the taking of water. The regional council has commenced a prosecution against the party, alleging the unlawful taking of water from the aquifer arising from the alleged failure to meet wellhead maintenance conditions.

A regional council spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether "the party" had been ruled out as relating to the source of contamination, or when the alleged breach was uncovered, as the matter was before the courts.

Regional Council chief executive Andrew Newman said the drinking water contamination had a devastating effect on the Havelock North community as well as wider regional effects.

The council was very keen to see the cause of the contamination identified and to ensure it did not happen again, he said.

Newman said the council had more than 15 people working on its investigations.

They included regional council scientists and Environmental Science Research (ESR) experts in the environment, land use, water and climate, as well as dye-tracing experts.

Investigations included surface and groundwater quality, bore infrastructure, water pathways in the local environment and livestock in nearby paddocks, he said.

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