The Water Inquiry has not yet determined the cause of the contamination of Havelock North's town supply in August 2016.

So how come the Hastings District Council website states: "The work to bring Brookvale Bore 3 on-line has been comprehensive. It is the bore furthest away from the Mangateretere Pond, which was found to be the cause of the August contamination in Havelock North" (March 10, 2017)?

This is misleading. It also pre-empts the findings of the government Inquiry.

People lost their lives and others still suffer daily from the complacency that seems to pervade our local institutions.


The presence of sheep faeces has been identified as part of the cause of contamination, but questions still remain as to how this contaminated surface water ended up in the kitchen taps all over Havelock North.

According to evidence presented to the Water Inquiry, just three months before the gastro outbreak which made more than 5000 people seriously ill, the council's maintenance contractor inspected the well heads of the municipal supply in Brookvale Rd.

But instead of climbing through the manhole and down the ladder to check the equipment in the dry well chamber, the council's inspector simply lifted the manhole lid, peered in, couldn't see any water on the floor, and assumed that all was well.

If he had climbed down the ladder he might have discovered leaking around the seal of the entry point for the main supply pipe, and the loose seals around the electrical cabling entering the bore itself.

All this is in the evidence presented to the Water Inquiry which is due to report back on May 12.

Meanwhile the council maintains its bores were not the problem, saying it believes the nearby pond full of sheep dung contaminated the Brookvale aquifer.

However, the neighbours in Brookvale Rd drank from their own bores which draw from the same aquifer, and they didn't get sick, which throws suspicion back on to the council's bore heads.

Mayor Lawrence Yule sat through a lot of the evidence presented at the hearings, so it is a mystery how he could claim that "It seems unlikely that the outbreak was caused by any infrastructure failing" in his opinion piece in a local newspaper on February 15.

On that same day a list of failures by the council was outlined at the hearing, giving a contrary view:

People in Havelock North and Hastings will have waited nine months to find out the cause of the gastro outbreak. And four people contracted the crippling neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but have been declined Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) support apparently because it was not considered "an accident".

It's time the Hastings District Council did the right thing for all those people and drilled new bores for Havelock North.

The last one it drilled was in 1991: there has been rapid population growth since then. Welldrillers inform us that municipal bores generally need replacing after 25 years. Bore 1 was drilled 35 years ago and the newest one was drilled 26 years ago.

The council's water consent for all three of the Brookvale Rd bores expires on May 18 2018, only a year away.

In 2008 the Hastings District Council gave a commitment to neighbouring bore-holders that it would find an alternative water source for Havelock North's town supply by 2018. It signed an agreement with Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated confirming the council would move away from the Brookvale bore field by 2018.

However, we have just heard that the council now wants a new consent from the Hawke's Bay Regional Council for the Brookvale bore area.

We understand the Hastings council has abandoned Brookvale bore 1. If it is applying for a new consent that raises the question: how long does it intend to use Brookvale as a "temporary fix" and is it planning to reopen bore 2, which has not been cleared by the Water Inquiry?

The new water treatment plant in Brookvale Rd has cost the Hastings council dearly, and cynics would suggest HDC may want to recoup its investment and simply recommission bore 2, hook it up to the treatment plant and disinfect the source water with chlorine.

In the past people have voted for councillors who promise to keep rates down, and as a result of such short-sighted attitudes we ended up with the worst gastro outbreak in New Zealand's history.

By now people should understand the need for a rates rise so long as it is a dedicated rate which is directed solely to upgrading the municipal supplies.

It would be money well spent. We need courageous councillors prepared to tackle this issue head-on, be honest with the community, find the funds and invest in new bores from a secure supply of source water. They should start with Havelock North.

Pauline Doyle and Ken Keys, spokespersons, Guardians of the Aquifer.