EXPENDITURE: The Hastings District Council's costs in relation to the Havelock North water crisis included upgrading its water infrastructure, part of which was closing down two of the Brookvale Rd bores. PHOTO/FILE

With the government inquiry now wrapped up, the latest figures on the institutional cost of last year's Havelock North contamination show that more than $5 million was spent by local authorities and the Hawke's Bay District Health Board.

To date, the Hastings District Council had spent nearly $2.2 million in response to the crisis, figures released yesterday showed.

The highest proportion - just over $1m - was spent investigating the outbreak, followed by $393,000 in legal costs associated with the inquiry.


Just over $100,000 had been spent on the council's welfare response, and $156,000 had been put towards assistance for Havelock North businesses.

The community health assistance fund, which was established to support people who fell ill, and set at $100,000, was still being allocated, with the last eligible recipients due to receive the financial support over the next few days, said Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

Mrs Hazlehurst met with some of the people who had become ill, who had asked to see her to discuss their ongoing suffering.

"They talked about the difficult time they had had over the last 18 months. I was incredibly touched by their stories," she said.

Up until September this year, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council had spent about $1.9 million in total on investigating the source of the outbreak and participating in the inquiry.

Of that, across the two stages of the inquiry, about $780,000 was spent on legal costs, the biggest single expense associated with the outbreak.

The Hawke's Bay District Health Board's costs totalled just over $1.2 million, related to clinical supplies, hydration management, surveys, administration costs, staff costs, lab and legal expenses.

In September this year, Sapere Research Group, which was contracted by the Ministry of Health, estimated the total economic costs to society of the Havelock North outbreak to be just more than $21m.

The most significant cost of $12m was borne by households sourcing alternative drinking water, taking time off normal activities or boiling water. That equated to about $2440 for each of the 5088 households affected.

The group's research did not include the effect on New Zealand's international tourism or export market, nor the $12m the Hastings District Council had allocated to spend over the 2017-18 financial year on upgrading its drinking water supply infrastructure.

In its Stage 2 report, the Havelock North water inquiry panel estimated that across New Zealand 18,000 to 100,000 people became ill from consuming drinking water every year and that the economic costs were in the region of $12.4m to $23.7m per annum.

In terms of tourism impact, it said the Havelock North outbreak was reported internationally.

"In the aftermath, University of Auckland lecturers in marketing and business studies highlighted that both New Zealand's tourism and export businesses are dependent on New Zealand's clean, green image.

"Adverse publicity from waterborne outbreaks taints this image and may persist for some time."

Repetitive outbreaks could damage New Zealand's reputation permanently, the report said.