An initial investigation into a leak of information about the multimillion-dollar Water Central project in the centre of Hastings is set to cost ratepayers $20,000, and will be completed by the end of November.

Hastings District Council, who released the terms of review for the investigation on Thursday, may keep the results of it private.

It comes nearly a week after the majority of councillors voted to investigate the source of the leak at an extraordinary meeting. In the end, three councillors voted against the motion: Simon Nixon, Malcolm Dixon and Damon Harvey.

Hawke's Bay Today published details about Water Central in late September, which led to council releasing a report showing detailed 10-page analysis, along with a 27-page business case, concept drawings and plans about the project.

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The building, with a working title of "Water Central", would have the purpose of telling the story of water, would cost $8.6 million over two years (2020-21) and would be funded externally by the Hastings District Council, and not through ratepayers.

The site, on council land, on the corner of Southampton St East and Hastings St South, would also include a reservoir roughly up to 38m diameter and 15m tall, together with associated pumps, filtration, chlorination and UV infrastructure housed in a purpose-built building (of approximately 200sq m in size and up to 8m tall).

The investigation will be conducted by Palmerston North lawyer Alastair Hall and is to establish, if possible, whether there was an "improper disclosure" of Water Central details and councillor only sessions on September 26 and 27, and if so who was the source of that disclosure.

It will cover council staff, contractors, and elected members.

In a letter to the editor, published on Tuesday, councillors Rod Heaps, Simon Nixon and Malcolm Dixon labelled the investigation an "absolute waste of money".

They said their "guesstimate" of an $100,000 cost may be on the low side when staff time is taken into consideration.