Christchurch City Council to get update on Havelock North inquiry response
By Paul McBeth
Jan. 22 (BusinessDesk) - Christchurch City Council will get an update on how staff are responding to the Havelock North drinking water inquiry that set up a raft of recommendations to improve the nation's inadequate water supply.
Council's recess committee held an extraordinary meeting on Jan. 16 to consider a publicly excluded report on below ground wellheads, according to a public notice on the council's website. Minutes of that meeting are on the agenda for council's first full meeting of the year, although they're also tagged to be heard during the public exclusion period.
"We have had ongoing briefings from staff since the Havelock North inquiry. At a meeting of the council's recess committee last week, we received an update on where staff were at responding to the inquiry findings," Mayor Lianne Dalziel said in an emailed statement. "There will be a report to the full council this week in relation to the council’s response to the Director-General of Health’s statement of 20 December 2017 regarding drinking water standards."
Last month, Attorney-General David Parker released the report to the second stage of the government's inquiry into Havelock North's drinking water, which made 51 recommendations including legislation rewrites and tougher regulation to deal with a failure to provide safe drinking water to all of the country's population.
The investigation was triggered by the outbreak of a gastro illness, laying low more than 2,000 people in the Hawke's Bay town in 2016 when the local supply, sourced from shallow bores extracting groundwater, was contaminated.
Christchurch's drinking water and wastewater assets were severely damaged in the 2011 earthquakes, contaminating the water and leading to 281,000 people affected by boil water notices.
Among the report's recommendations was for universal treatment of water, although the authors noted Christchurch City Council didn't want to chlorinate its water supply unless it was an emergency response.
"It stated that it understood this was a higher risk approach than chlorinating but that it mitigated the risk through more frequent testing and rapid response to any E.coli that was detected," the report said. "The inquiry rejects the notion that diligent testing for E.coli can be a justification for declining to treat."
The government wrote to mayors and district health boards around the country to ensure water quality met the current standards. At the time of the report's release, Health Minister David Clark said he'd sought urgent advice to put before Cabinet before Christmas, while Parker, who's also Environment Minister, also wanted advice on the recommendations and regulations.