Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson announced today that the report-back date for the independent Inquiry into Havelock North Drinking-Water has been extended at the request of the Inquiry’s Panel.

The Panel, which began proceedings in October last year, will now report back to the Government in two stages.

Stage 1 will address matters relating directly to the Havelock North water contamination incident and the response to that incident. It will include findings of fact and fault. Following Cabinet approval, Stage 1 is now due to be reported back to the Attorney-General by 12 May 2017.

Stage 2 will address systemic issues and provide recommendations about managing water supply across New Zealand. It will examine the existing statutory and regulatory regimes involved in delivering drinking-water to see if improvements can be made. Stage 2 of the Inquiry is now due to be reported back to the Attorney-General by 8 December 2017.

An extension to the report-back date was requested by the Panel for a number of reasons, including:

delays caused by legal action between the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and the Hastings District Council; delays caused by the need to ensure the interim safety of Havelock North’s drinking-water; the Inquiry’s decision to adopt a two-stage approach to the Inquiry; and the underlying complexity of the statutory and regulatory regimes involved.

“The issues facing the Inquiry must be examined comprehensively to ensure we have a clear understanding of what happened in Havelock North,” Mr Finlayson said. “New Zealanders must be able to have confidence that the rules and practices which govern the safety of their drinking water are fit for purpose.”

The Inquiry was originally scheduled to report back by 31 March 2017. The terms of reference for the Inquiry will be amended by notice in the New Zealand Gazette to cover the new reporting dates.

The Inquiry was established under the Inquiries Act 2013 and is statutorily independent of government.

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