Havelock North drinking-water Inquiry: Stage 1 released

Stage 1 of the Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking-Water was released on May 10. Stage 1 addresses the causes of the water contamination incident and assesses the conduct of those responsible for providing safe drinking water in Havelock North.

Key findings of Stage 1 of the Inquiry include the following:

  • Sheep faeces containing campylobacter were the likely cause of the outbreak. The Te Mata aquifer was not confined (as was assumed prior to the Inquiry’s process) and was vulnerable to contamination.
  • Several parties, particularly the Hawkes Bay Regional Council (the Regional Council), the Hastings District Council (the District Council), and the Drinking Water Assessors (DWAs) failed to adhere to the high levels of care and diligence necessary to protect public health.
  • None of the faults, omissions or breaches of standards directly caused the outbreak. Had all or any of these failings not occurred, however, a different outcome may have resulted.
  • The Regional Council failed to meet its Resource Management Act responsibilities and to take specific and effective steps to assess contamination risks to the Te Mata aquifer (from which Havelock North’s water was drawn) and the attendant risks to drinking water safety.
  • The District Council did not embrace or implement the high standard of care required of a public drinking water supplier, particularly in the light of its experience with a similar outbreak in 1998.
  • The District Council’s mid-level managers delegated tasks but did not adequately supervise or ensure their implementation.
  • The District Council did not properly manage plant and equipment maintenance or keep records of that work; and it carried out little or no supervision of necessary follow up work.
  • There were significant gaps in readiness, such as the District Council’s lack of an Emergency Response Plan (contingency plan).
  • There was a critical lack of collaboration and liaison between the Regional Council and the District Council. The absence of regular and meaningful cooperation resulted in a number of missed opportunities that may have prevented the outbreak.
  • The DWAs were too hands off and should have been stricter in ensuring the District Council complied with its responsibilities.

Stage 2 will address systemic issues and provide recommendations about managing water supply across New Zealand to safeguard against such an outbreak occurring in the future. It is due to be reported back to the Attorney-General by 8 December 2017.

The Government is now considering the findings of Stage 1 of the Inquiry and will respond in due course.

The full report is available at