Water New Zealand chief executive John Pfahlert says the industry needs to learn from the Havelock North Water Inquiry's findings so that a similar contamination event does not occur again.

The organisation is a non-profit technical and educational body for environmental management professionals with about 1500 members in New Zealand and overseas.

Reacting to the release of the inquiry panel's report yesterday, Mr Pfahlert said it pointed to a failure to learn lessons from an earlier contamination in 1998 and this was consistent with international experience.

"It is very common for institutional knowledge to get lost through staff and organisational changes, and that's something that all councils and water service delivery organisations need to be more mindful about."


He said criticism in the report of the performance of both regional and district council staff and those within the DHB highlighted the need to ensure that staff were appropriately qualified and trained to manage drinking water systems.

"On top of this, the report highlights the fact that the Drinking Water Assessors were too hands off in applying the Drinking Water Standards.

"The report acknowledges that the DWAs were under resourced and underpowered to discharge their responsibilities and this will be taken up in Stage 2 of the inquiry."

The lack of communication the report found between the Hasting District and Hawke's Bay Regional Councils meant that earlier clues that the water could have been contaminated were not picked up until it was too late, Mr Pfahlert said.

"All councils and district health boards around the country need to heed the message that good working relationships and information sharing are critical in ensuring that safe drinking water is delivered to communities."