A Hastings District Council proposal to give financial assistance to people who are still suffering from the Havelock North gastro outbreak in August last year has been put off for more information to be gathered.
The council yesterday considered a report recommending a budget provision of $100,000 be made to help affected residents pay for non-acute costs such as ambulances, GPs and medication.
Council chief executive Ross McLeod said there was currently no detailed information on how many people were still suffering, and discussions were yet to be had with other agencies such as ACC, the DHB and Ministry of Social Development as to whether they may contribute.
"A lot of the information is anecdotal, and there might not be a need for this, but there are cases coming to light of incidental costs and people are falling through the cracks."
Councillors were sympathetic but raised concerns about whether putting the money aside was premature when there was no definitive information at this point as to what assistance people might need.
Councillor George Lyons said he felt the council had given early assistance already to Havelock North businesses, as well as a $340,000 rates remission.
"Are we not being a bit speedy in signalling what we want to give to people?" he asked.
Councillor Simon Nixon added very little money given in the rates remission had been passed on by landlords to tenants.
"Only one landlord passed the additional money on to tenants - all the rest was pocketed and did not compensate anybody.
"There's no indication on this on how we judge if people are deserving. We do not know the size of the issue. How do we know that $100,000 will make a difference ... or that it will be enough?"
Councillor Kevin Watkins said this was probably the most significant health issue since the 1931 earthquake and while there may be other parties who may contribute there was no avoiding the fact people were still hurting and facing expenses.
"As a council, although we are not liable, it's about community and $100,000 is not too much to ask."
Other councillors questioned whether offering the money was an admission of liability in terms of the cause of the outbreak.
Mr McLeod said that unless the inquiry findings were unequivocal about pinning the cause of the outbreak on the Hastings council, which was unlikely, it would become a moot point as any potential claims in such a situation would be made against the council's insurance.
Mayor Lawrence Yule said it had nothing to do with liability or compensation, and noted the council had already stumped up $160,000 in business assistance, $340,000 in rates rebates, $800,000 on UV treatment, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
He said he did not think it was too much to ask to commit another $100,000.
"If we go to the table with nothing, we will not have many doors open.
"If we go to ACC saying we are prepared to do something, can you help us, we might have a chance.
"I understand your caution but there are some people really hurting and I think we should help them."
At the start of the debate, deputy mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said she was very supportive of the intention but did not think the council was in a position to put a figure around what was required.
She proposed the council hold off and work with other agencies to explore all avenues for financial assistance for those who continued to be badly affected by illness or related issues from the gastro outbreak.
This recommendation was passed by eight votes to six.