Whatever the outcome tomorrow of the Otama Rural Water Scheme referendum, the Gore District Council may have to set some baseline standards depending on the results of the Havelock North water inquiry, council chief executive Steve Parry says.
The scheme, originally built to supply water for farm animals, now also serves more than 200 consumers, two schools and a marae.
Mr Parry said the supply relied on the quality of the source water. The water comes from a bore next to the Mataura River.
“In terms of risk, it is somewhat vulnerable.”
The referendum asks scheme users if they want the council to continue ownership and the day-to-day management and maintenance, or if they prefer the Otama Rural Water Scheme Committee’s new management structure.
At June’s council meeting on Tuesday night, councillors discussed the Havelock North water quality inquiry and the effects it was having on councils and communities throughout New Zealand.
A report was compiled by 3 Waters assets manager Matt Baylis on the Gore and Mataura water scheme compared with the situation in Havelock North.
When the Hawkes Bay town’s water became contaminated last year, 5500 residents fell ill. A total of 45 people were sent to hospital and three deaths were linked to the contaminated water.
Cr Nicky Davis noted the Otama Rural Water Scheme was not mentioned in the report.
GDC chief executive Steve Parry said this was because the council did not have the same level of confidence in the Otama scheme as it did in the Gore and Mataura schemes.
Cr Bret Highsted raised concerns the council could carry the risk if something like the Havelock North issue occurred.
Mayor Tracy Hicks told Cr Highsted that whatever the result of the poll tomorrow, there would need to be conversations about how the scheme was managed.
Cr Cliff Bolger asked what decision the GDC was anticipating from the Government, in regards to the inquiry.
Stage two of the Havelock North water quality inquiry will be released in December.
Mr Parry said he believed the Government would put some rules in place, such as those imposed in Canterbury following the earthquakes, involving mandatory upgrades.
“I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t some baseline minimum [water standard].”
Cr Glenys Dickson asked whether or not the people on the Otama Rural Water Scheme were aware of the potential health risks.
Mr Parry said he did not think the people knew about all the risks, but they were aware of how the scheme would operate depending on the vote result tomorrow.
Mr Hicks said the risks had been discussed at length at public meetings.
Cr Ralph Beale asked if the poll went in favour of the water scheme committee, if the council would have any authority to make everyone put in a water filter or other alternative.
“We have the name on the water,” he said.
Mr Parry said the council was the owner of the scheme, therefore if something happened to it, the council would be held to account.
No matter the outcome tomorrow of the vote, part two of the Havelock North inquiry could force the council’s hand, he said.