Well, it’s been an interesting 3 weeks since the outbreak of campylobacter in Havelock North. The outbreak is probably going to be a game changer in terms of the way we approach water treatment in New Zealand going forward. It’s certainly going to affect the work plan of the Association in the coming months.
While the cause of the outbreak is still unknown, staff at Hastings District Council has been doing a great job both responding to the media and dealing with the issue at a technical level. I met with them last Friday and assured them of our ongoing support. My thanks go to them and the other industry professionals who have stepped up to help them.
Water New Zealand has issued two media statements in relation to the issue, and these are on the website. I have given a number of newspaper, radio and TV interviews as a result. As a media issue the issue has “legs” and is likely to continue as the inquiry runs its course. You can expect to see Water New Zealand position itself to be a key spokesperson on this issue – because any changes to legislation, drinking water standards, the grading system etc all affect day to day operations in the sector.
In fact, we plan to set up a specific page on the website where all our media statements, articles and important correspondence will be stored. This will allow members to keep track of this issue as the inquiry progresses.
Early this week I convened a meeting of 8 industry experts on water treatment and related issues to discuss a plan of action. The first action was to write to the Attorney General with some suggestions for improvements to the Terms of Reference for the independent inquiry into the outbreak. A copy of that letter is now also on our website.
At this stage we are expecting the government to appoint someone to head the inquiry, perhaps as early as next week? They will likely be supported by a couple of panel members with relevant expertise.
Once the inquiry head and panel are appointed and the Terms of Reference finalized, the inquiry will be supported by staff at the Department of Internal Affairs, because they administer the Inquiries Act.
As to the timing of inquiry – well that’s also unclear. It’s probable that they will report in stages. The first will be in relation to the actual event, and a later report on the systemic issues.
There will be a panel discussion at our annual conference on the topic with industry experts, so make sure you plan to attend this year.