After meeting business owners who suffered through the gastro outbreak, Labour Party leader Andrew Little said questions around the disruption to their livelihoods should be answered by the government inquiry.

That was one thing he took away from his visit to Havelock North yesterday, when he and incumbent, and hopeful, local Labour MPs toured the village.

After a morning speaking with businesses, and Ngati Kahungunu representatives, Mr Little, Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri, Napier MP Stuart Nash, and Tukituki candidate Anna Lorck went to the MCL construction site of the Village Exchange complex, including a tour of Hastings' first five-star hotel.

With the guidance of Porters Boutique Hotel general manager Odette Bowyer, the group took in some of the 42 high-end rooms and suites, visualising where the downstairs Malo restaurant would soon serve fine cuisine.


Mr Little said the complex was a good expression of local economic confidence. It was fantastic to see the development of good-quality accommodation, he said, with the rapid growth of tourism, especially in areas like Hawke's Bay with "a strong tourism underpinning".

Ms Whaitiri said that while the development of the complex showed progress was being made in Havelock North, businesses still had some concerns.

"It's about making sure we have good support systems in place for small business owners in Havelock North. People still need support," she said.

The group also stopped by the Village Butcher to buy items, and speak with owner Paul Greaney on how the outbreak had affected him.

"The number of customers coming through the door just dropped by about 90 per cent," he said.

They had been unable to prepare products because of the water contamination, and money to buy new equipment was spent to ensure the business remained open.

After meeting Mr Greaney, Mr Little said one of the questions which would arise from the government inquiry into the contamination incident, was whether communications had been effective enough, and whether a state of health emergency should have been called.

"If that had happened it would have allowed a lot of businesses that have suffered as a result to claim insurance on the business disruption that they've suffered," he said.


"One of the things I've taken out of my discussions today is to take that issue and see if we can get that firmly in the terms of reference, and get that question answered."

Given how widespread the problem had become, with more than 5000 people affected, Mr Little said: "In a population this size, actually that sounds like a state of emergency to me."

From his visit to Havelock North the Labour leader said he felt the town was recovering, however, he did not think the uncertainty businesses had been through should be understated.

"Good on them for doing what they have to do to keep their business going, keep their staff on, but in the end the sort of thing that caused them to have to go through that shouldn't be happening.

"We've got to get that fixed up," he said, adding it needed to be understood what processes might have allowed businesses access to disruption insurance.