26 Aug 2016

Foss flabbergasted by regional council inquiry

9:31 am on 26 August 2016

Tukituki MP Craig Foss has accused the Hawke's Bay Regional Council of adding to public uncertainty about the contamination of Havelock North's water supply.

Tukituki MP Craig Foss. 19 August 2016.

Craig Foss said he was flabbergasted the Hawke's Bay Regional Council are investigating the district council. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mr Foss, local MP and government minister, said he was flabbergasted at regional council's announcement it was investigating the Hastings District Councilto see whether the Havelock water bores complied with resource consents.

An estimated 4700 people were hit by gastric illness following contamination of the water supply with campylobacter.

It is not clear whether the bug got into the bores from contamination above the ground or from the aquifer below.

The district council's role is to ensure the bores are safe and correctly sealed, and the regional council's responsibility is maintaining the quality of groundwater and ensuring aquifers are not tainted.

The Hastings District Council said the investigation came as a surprise as it believed it had met the resource consent requirements the regional council want to look in to.

Hastings District mayor Lawrence Yule said yesterday the regional council should not be doing its own investigation into Havelock North's water bores because it has a conflict of interest.

The government has already begun a separate inquiry into the contamination disaster.

Mr Foss said he did not know what was going on between the two councils.

He said they need to step up and communicate properly to themselves and the public and be accountable to ratepayers.

In addition to pointing to the Hastings District Council bores as a possible source of contamination, the regional council has said the Tukituki River was unlikely to be the source of the campylobacter contamination.

Canadian example of inter-council conflict

A Canadian who forced a judicial inquiry after a fatal contamination of his community's water in Ontario said regional and local governments each try to shift the blame away from themselves in such crises.

Bruce Davidson leads a citizens group in Walkerton, Canada, where seven people died and thousands were sickened by E coli in their water in 2000.

Initially during the Walkerton tragedy the regional government tried to blame the local government.

He said his group rejected a parliamentary inquiry and instead gained a judicial inquiry, which found local, regional and central government all played a role in the disaster.

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