Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule and Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham have met with their senior staff members in a bid to improve relations between the two councils, particularly in respect to public water supplies.

The move was a response to the Havelock North Water Inquiry's criticism of the relationship between the two authorities, which prompted inquiry panel chairman Lyn Stevens, QC, to comment that the "strained relationship, together with an absence of regular co-operation, saw a number of missed opportunities that may have prevented the outbreak".

Mr Yule and Mr Graham said they unreservedly accepted all the inquiry findings and that they were taking another step forward in their resolve to address all the failings highlighted throughout the investigation into last year's water contamination.

"The public is naturally concerned and expects better - we both agreed that the top priority is to give people safe clean drinking water, and we will work together, and with the Government, to do that," Mr Yule said.


Hastings District Council staff at the meeting included chief executive Ross McLeod, water services manager Brett Chapman, and group manager asset management Craig Thew.

From the Hawke's Bay Regional Council group manager external relations Liz Lambert, group manager resource management Iain Maxwell, group strategic development manager James Palmer and group asset management manager Graeme Hansen attended.

Mr Graham said the aim was to address how the councils could do things better.

"It's complex because the regional council has a statutory, back-end function and that obligation has in the past been a barrier to us co-operating at the front end.

"We need to use the expertise we have in both councils to get it right. It's a new approach, but one that should have been there in the first place."

He cited areas where the two councils were working together, such as the coastal strategy, transport and the TANK process, as examples of where they were doing things well.

Mr Yule said both councils were working through the inquiry findings, with the aim being to fix the failings identified.

In addition the Hastings District Council was investigating potential new sources of water, along with more rigorous treatment of existing sources, and the aim was to have the regional council involved in some of those processes.

"When we are looking at new sources we want that to be doing that collectively from day one and agree that we have found the best solution.

"We want to do all we can to ensure this very serious situation where more than 5000 people fell ill will never happen again."

They also intended to enter a joint submission to be considered in Stage 2 of the inquiry, and cited the upcoming water symposium next month as another example of their new-found co-operation.