A regionwide plan to protect Hawke's Bay's drinking water received its first tick yesterday.

It has been proposed all five of the region's councils and the Hawke's Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) establish a joint drinking-water governance committee, which would focus on the region's water.

Yesterday the Hawke's Bay Regional Council became the first to agree to establish the committee - which would be created once the other groups had also agreed.

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It was hoped the committee would make sure each authority was working together, and that best practices were in place to ensure catchment risks were managed, and that safe drinking water was provided.

The first to formally support the proposal, yesterday regional councillors encouraged their counterparts across the region to get on board.

As well as being a "pragmatic and essential" response to the Havelock North outbreak, acting council chair Rick Barker said having each territorial authority represented on the committee would be a way of "drawing out disparate elements of this region together".

"We are all on the same team and to have a provincial-wide approach to this I think is really good . . . I think it's how we should approach most things."

Communication issues between councils have been pointed as a barrier in the past. And the joint committee was seen as particularly beneficial because of the "multiple barrier" approach to drinking-water safety, where agencies need to work together to ensure risks are managed.

For the regional council specifically, Napier councillor Neil Kirton said he hoped the committee would help "fill a gap" in their processes.

"This is an opportunity . . . to overview and review our single most important piece of infrastructure that we could possibly provide for the public, a safe and fresh water supply," he said.

"It's disturbing and astonishing that we're in this position of having a critical resource such as our water supply having been compromised in the way it was, or potentially is."


Yesterday it was also agreed to appoint councillors Tom Belford and Paul Bailey to the committee for the current term.

Their appointment was said to be "quite appropriate", as the constituencies they represent - Hastings and Napier - have had the most issues with their water supplies over the past year.

The committee's focus would be twofold, providing oversight around the management of drinking water, and possibly to consider, or make recommendations to organisations responsible for the management of broader freshwater management issues.

Last week representatives from all five councils and the DHB told Hawke's Bay Today they were keen to be involved in the committee, which they thought would improve communication and be helpful in sharing their respective knowledge.