The finger being pointed at Hastings District Council over an "impasse" in the Government inquiry into Havelock North drinking water is down to a misunderstanding, the council says.

The second stage of the Havelock North water inquiry began with a three-day hearing in late June.

While Stage 1 addressed the facts and failings around last August's campylobacter outbreak that caused more than 5000 people to become sick, Stage 2 would look at lessons to be learnt, how to prevent gastro outbreaks in future and changes to improve the safety of drinking water.

Yesterday the inquiry released an interim report based on the findings of June's hearing, with recommendations of the panel on the ongoing safety of the Havelock North drinking water supply.


It noted that at the hearing, there appeared to be consensus that amending recommendations made by the inquiry following a December hearing "was desirable".

These conditions concerned the monitoring and testing of the district's drinking water.

However the report noted the parties involved had not been able to reach an agreement on these recommendations that "were both necessary and reasonably practicable" by the end of the June hearing, as was hoped.

"It is unfortunate that such agreements has not been achieved," the report noted.

Although draft recommendations were developed, an "impasse was reached". The inquiry suggested a teleconference be held to resolve this, however "HDC was either unable or unwilling to participate" in this.

When asked why the council had not participated, council chief executive Ross McLeod assured that safe drinking water was their highest priority, and all their efforts were going into ensuring the water is safe and treated.

"It is news to Council that we were seen to be unable or unwilling to participate in the process and believe there may have been a misunderstanding," he said.

"The Council is reiterating to the inquiry panel its willingness to assist in all matters relating to the inquiry and its recommendations aimed at ensuring safe drinking water."

Mr McLeod said they thought the detailed recommendations were still being worked on, "but it seems the inquiry has reached a conclusion," Mr McLeod said.

He added their water safety expert Dr Dan Deere would remain available to assist the inquiry.

Dr Deere was crucially involved in one of the reports recommendations - that all bores which supply drinking water to Havelock North, or Hastings be managed as non-secure, and potentially subject to surface water influence, or at risk of contamination from sewerage system defects.

The only way these bores could be considered as secure was after unanimous agreement of Dr Deere and the four members of the Joint Working Group.

The council has treated all its urban supplies as if they were non-secure since August last year - prior to this all water sources in the district's urban supply were classified as "secure" under the Drinking Water standards for New Zealand (DWSNZ).

Mr McLeod did note the Council had just approved $12 million, of which a significant amount will be spent on enhanced treatment of drinking water.

Another hearing is expected to be held between August 7 and 11 to address the other Stage 2 issues.