In a modern society we expect a long list of things to be delivered to us so we can go about life in a fairly civilised way.

Electricity is one of the major ones and without it - as we all know from very inconvenient power cuts - our lifestyle drops dramatically.

It is interesting being without power for a few hours as I find I have to re-wire my brain a little to do things other than surf web news sites, upload pictures and articles to my websites, or play an online game on my iPad.

During the day it's easy to grab a photo magazine, or book, and plonk down in a comfy chair to catch up on some reading. The pile of Napoleonic-period books to review is disquietingly large at the moment and a chance to get into them would be welcomed.


However, power cuts - I have found - usually happen at dusk or, if we are unlucky, just as you have put dinner on at about 7.30pm.

Then it's a scramble for the torch that should be on the shelf by the fire but which tends to wander around the house courtesy of whoever had it last.

That is followed by a period of concentrated effort trying to light the multitude of candles around the place to undarken the main rooms so we don't break a toe on a table leg.

And, of course, those in homes that have electrical hot water can enjoy the invigorating liquid needles of cold H2O spraying all over them.

Now the good residents of Havelock North in Hawke's Bay have another concern when taking showers. They were cleaning themselves in contaminated water.

No more filling mouths from out of the shower head and spitting it out pretending to be a whale for them, I guess, for the next wee while.

At least 4000 residents of that well-to-do town and its surrounds have been clobbered by gastroenteritis that has laid them low with vomiting and diarrhoea.

The situation was so bad that the town ran out of toilet paper and extra truckloads had to be brought in to help them clean up.

Even worse, 500 people were diagnosed with strains of the even nastier bug campylobacter, which raises the health risk level from inconvenient and unpleasant to downright dangerous.

One elderly woman is thought to have died after contracting campylobacter.

So why did so many people come down with gastro?

It was in the drinking water supply!

Yup, the thing that is even more necessary than electricity in a modern home is access to clean, safe drinking water.

Except in Havelock North, where the water was found to have ruminants' poo in it. That is the droppings from cattle, sheep or deer.

The local councillors must be sweating over the incident and the handling of the matter.


I have no idea how animal excrement would get into a town's water supply in sufficient quantities to be so dangerous and, well, neither did the local council.

The pen pushers of Hastings District Council were running around like chooks with no heads - by the way fowl poo was ruled out of the equation as a contaminant - but eventually sourced a water tanker to take to Havelock North to help ease the problem.

Only the water in the tanker was also contaminated. That was discovered after it visited a local school and kids were filmed by TV crews filling their water bottles and taking long draughts of the water.

Not a very good PR faux pas to commit during an election campaign, I would have thought.

The local councillors must be sweating over the incident and the handling of the matter.
Personally, I think they should all have been given a bottle of town water to sample, just to bring home the lesson of providing safe drinking water.

The town water has now been chlorinated and so should be okay.

I would hope that all local bodies have now tested their water supplies and can guarantee their ratepayers and citizens that it is secure and safe to drink. I'd not be holding my breath on that though.

Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.