Sheep faeces have been blamed as "probably" contaminating Havelock North's water and sparking an outbreak of gastroenteritis in the area, an inquiry has been told.

The gallery was full at the start of the government inquiry into the water contamination crisis this morning, taking place at the Hastings District Court.

After a karakia by Ngati Kahungunu kaumatua Jerry Hapuku, Hastings District Council water services manager Brett Chapman appeared before the inquiry panel of Lyn Stevens, QC, former Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi and Wellington city engineer Anthony Wilson.

Under questioning from barrister Nathan Gedye, Mr Chapman confirmed that the outbreak was probably caused by sheep faceces from two paddocks near the Brookvale Road bores.


The inquiry then explored the risks that were in existence, both to the Brookvale Road bores and the underground aquifer, and what the Hastings District Council knew of those risks.

Mr Gedye asked Mr Chapman about the council's knowledge of the bores in the area, in addition to the three Brookvale Road bores that have been in the spotlight since the gastro outbreak in August last year.

He also asked about multiple e.coli readings in a Hawke's Bay Regional Council test bore located about 225 metres from Bore 3, recorded since 2006, but of which Hastings District Council had no knowledge, apart from an elevated reading in Bore 3 in September 2015.

Mr Chapman confirmed that the council's understanding was that the aquifer below the bores was not vulnerable to contamination from above, however, he acknowledged that the aquitard (a confining layer between the surface and the aquifer) was thin or non-existent in places, with major earthworks having the potential to damage the aquitard.

The link between the Mangateretere Stream, a nearby pond, Bores 1 and 2 and the bore pumps was also discussed, in terms of what impact pumping had on the pond's water level.

The inquiry will continue today, and continue for the next two to three weeks.