The independent reviewers of Hastings District Council's water services say they are confident that good progress has been made on ensuring the wider Hastings water network is safe, despite criticism from the Havelock North Water Inquiry in its stage 2 report.
While the inquiry found that overall Hastings District Council had taken steps to address the ongoing safety of Hastings' and Havelock North's drinking water supply, there were a number of areas still causing concern.
Released last week the stage 2 report put the Hastings council on notice about a number of issues it considered had not been dealt with adequately or in a timely enough manner since its stage 1 findings in December last year.
They ranged from concerns about the Emergency Response Plan, to the adequacy of the chlorination of the reticulation, and general speed of changes being made.
"It is over 15 months since the outbreak, and over four months since HDC received the report of the independent review. Progress to date seems limited. The processes appear to be over-complicated," the inquiry said.
Council chief executive Ross McLeod said the inquiry process was removed from the day-to-day running of the council, and a more accurate reflection of progress to date could be seen in the update from an independent review of the capability and capacity of the water network operations.
In early 2017, Mr McLeod commissioned the review of the council's water services activity.
The review team included independent consultants Bruce Robertson, Neil Taylor and Ross Waugh with independent chairman Garth Cowie and Water NZ principal adviser water quality Jim Graham.
At a council meeting yesterday, Mr Cowie said the inquiry comments reflected what was happening in July/August but considerable progress had been made since then.
"There is still work to do to the end of June and it will be ongoing – there will be a number of work streams that will need to continue beyond that point to meet the requirements of the government inquiry and also our own programme of delivering safe drinking water."
He noted, however, that to date the council had accepted all the recommendations put forward by the inquiry, and the council was moving as fast as possible to transform its water services.
Mr McLeod said the inquiry's concerns about the Emergency Response Plan not being adequately prepared yet had already been addressed, with the system tested during more minor water contamination events at Waimarama, Whirinaki and Waipataki Motor Camp.
The inquiry also queried the chlorine levels in the Havelock North reticulation, including having adequate residual levels of chlorine, and said the Hastings council needed to pursue a programme of assessment and improvement.
Water services manager Brett Chapman said work was well under way to addressing these concerns, and that online monitoring was currently being installed, another tool to reduce risk.
Mr Graham, who was acting as an independent technical adviser and also gave expert testimony during the inquiry, said he was very confident progress was satisfactory.
Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said she was satisfied the council was focusing on safe drinking water and the improvement of water services.
"It is important that we keep moving quickly but also where necessary take the time we need to get things right.
"This is about the health and safety of our people, and it is council's top priority."