Safe drinking water costs money.
But because the Hastings District Council got its priorities wrong 5500 people ended up drinking poisoned water in Havelock North last August.
People made the mistake of drinking water from the kitchen tap thinking that the council's most important role is to provide safe drinking water.
The district council was given 10 years in 2008 to find a new town supply for Havelock North and move from the Brookvale aquifer.
A $4.9 million project was approved in 2009, titled "New Source at Whakatu & Rising Main to Havelock North" - Project # 202091.
A year later the sum of $100,000 was budgeted to get started.
But in 2012 the whole project was cancelled, and that's when things started to go wrong.
Brookvale bore 3 was contaminated in 2015 and had to be shut down. The council swapped to Brookvale bores 1 and 2.
Then the whole town supply for Havelock North collapsed last year because those two bores were contaminated with campylobacter. The council then swapped to Hastings bores which couldn't keep up and, as a result, we had a water crisis.
As an interim measure, the council swapped back to Bore 3, adding an $800,000 UV treatment and filtration plant and disinfecting the water with chlorine - described as a "belts and braces" approach at the recent water inquiry.
The council has known since 2008 it needed to move, but it has done nothing, and its consent to use the Brookvale aquifer expires on May 18 next year.
Now the council wants a new consent to continue using Brookvale.
The local community objected to the council's consent in 2008 because the locals knew the aquifer could not meet the needs of a population of 15,000 people.
The council's water manager knew that the water pumped from Brookvale "had a direct link to the Mangateretere Stream". [Hawke's Bay Today, February 20, 2013.]
The council's consultants advised that funding a new source from Havelock North was "not a sound investment" and it was "more efficient" to build on what it already had.
The council's priority was to keep rates down. District mayor Lawrence Yule even challenged the regional council in 2013 over its requirement that HDC upgrade its water systems, saying: "When I look at the implications for spending millions of dollars on upgrading bores, I am struggling to understand why we have to do this." [Hawke's Bay Today, February 20, 2013.] And he insisted that regional council staff be called to the next council meeting "to explain".
Who decided to cancel Project 202091? Was it the chief executive? Was it the mayor? Was it a decision of all the councillors at Hastings District Council? And was it based on advice from council's water team?
Hastings District Council signed an agreement with Ngati Kahungunu in May 2008 committing to moving to another bore field. The council failed to do so and now wants another consent to stay at Brookvale.
The HDC now has a year left to drill a new bore for Havelock North. Will the council honour the agreement signed with Ngati Kahungunu in 2008?
HDC is again facing off with the regional council, pleading for consent to continue using Brookvale, even though everyone knows that water pumped from the council's bores have a direct link to the Mangateretere Stream.
The public hearings were useful - we discovered that HDC's water manager didn't even understand the difference between an artesian source [in Napier] and a non-artesian source [Brookvale]. He didn't know that it is impossible for the bugs on the surface to "swim against the tide" where you have strong artesian pressure, and that their bores in a non-artesian source like Brookvale are vulnerable to surface contamination.
This would explain why HDC never raised its boreheads above ground level. Bores 1 and 2 are sunk nearly 3 metres underground, which creates serious risks of contaminated surface water getting sucked into the bore itself and pumped to kitchen taps all over Havelock North. Remember, these bores were extremely vulnerable on August 6 when we had a storm coupled with the two power failures.
Add into the mix the sheep faeces carried in through groundwater from the paddocks and nearby polluted pools of water, and also from the roadside drains overflowing around the "dry" well chambers that sit on top of the boreheads - and you have a disaster waiting to happen.
We have serious concerns that Hastings District Council is calling the shots in the Water Safety Joint Working Group and that the whole region is heading off in the wrong direction. Mandatory chlorination is NOT the answer.
But because the inquiry panel gave the district council's dye-test a higher rating than the regional council's water-tightness test of the "dry" well chambers, we've ended up with a "stamp of approval" for short-term fixes which do not solve our critical water problems.
In a show of solidarity, HDC councillors recently rallied in support of their chief executive, but some councillors are now realising that spending $7m on treatment plants in Hastings and Havelock North fixes nothing.
Pauline Doyle and Ken Keys are the spokespersons for Guardians of the Aquifer. Views expressed here are the writers' opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org