Prior to last Thursday's non-transparent, behind closed doors council meeting, I wrote to Hastings District Council to suggest that it should, without delay, provide every household in Havelock North with a $200 emergency reimbursement pay-out.

I also pointed out that council and Craig Foss made a huge mistake in letting the Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, leave the village without agreeing to declare a 'medical emergency' which would have opened up a raft of mechanisms to enable business owners and individuals to put in claims for compensation.

What did councillors do? They unanimously decided that a scrooge-like $57 rates rebate was ample for homeowners and that a paltry $110,000 was sufficient for Havelock North business owners to move forward. Where are these people's heads?

Council has failed to recognise that people are suffering stress - not only from being ill but through loss of income and extra expenses incurred as a result of the contamination - like the solo mum who wrote to the paper to say that she had no money for food, like working families who have mortgages to pay, like pensioners on the super. A $200 pay out would have made a difference for many people. Sure, some people don't need financial assistance but we have all been inconvenienced in some shape or form.


Personally, I would have been quite happy to donate my $200 allocation to the Red Cross which did a great job.

People should not have to ask for financial help. They should not have to go cap in hand to WINZ and have their finances raked over. The reimbursement payment of $200 should have been given and given with contriteness.

Why does it take me to tell highly paid council staff and personnel something that they should have thought of and initiated as soon as the scale of the gastro outbreak became clear? It is yet a further example of bureaucratic ineptitude which I have experienced over the past three years. Senior managers get paid whether they perform or not and, if they were self-employed, they would be out of business.

This is the sort of help our councillors should have battled for. They should stop listening to staff and take the initiative. They need to take ownership that they are part of the problem for having allowed senior managers to hold too much power for far too long - and actually DO something for the people they represent. In my view, they have failed in that respect and I think that their decisions will mean that they have signed their own way out of council. If ever we need new blood in HDC it is now.

As I wrote, council is very good at taking money and, in many cases, wasting it but totally reluctant to give back when things go wrong.

There may be other costs but here are some expenses that people have incurred:-
• Medical Fees and prescription charges
• Extra petrol for hospital visits and visits to sick family members
• Pharmacy medications and remedies
• Bottled water
• Hygiene products
• Extra power for extra laundry
• Extra power for home heating while unwell
• Extra nappies and baby skin products
• Extra Laundry powder • Extra cleaning products
• Extra toilet rolls
• Hand sanitiser
The $200 which I suggested is not a 'hand out.' It would have been a token gesture, simply to reimburse people money that they would otherwise not have had to outlay. I understand that there are around 4,350 homes in Havelock, so this idea would have cost around $870,000 which is absolutely peanuts from the council coffers - and it is our money anyway.

I also wrote to Craig Foss and told him that he should be telling Cabinet to declare the 'medical emergency' instead of wasting time on photo opportunities handing out a few bottles of water. A contribution of $100,000, the advertised WINZ assistance and IRD waiving penalties is hopelessly inadequate for business owners and many people are far too proud or too elderly to consider going to WINZ.

This mass illness with its subsequent loss of income for many is an unprecedented incident and it is abundantly clear that council had no battle plans to deal with such a situation. Residents have lost confidence in the water and lost confidence in both local councils and the government.

At a time when leadership was needed, those charged with that responsibility seem to have failed with a capital F.

■Jessica Maxwell lives in Havelock North and is a concerned Hastings ratepayer.