Campylobacter confirmed in Havelock North water, 4100 affected

Campylobacter in a dish (Getty)
Campylobacter in a dish (Getty)

Tests have confirmed campylobacter had contaminated the Havelock North water supply bore, affecting 4100 people in the area.

At a press conference on Friday morning Hastings District Mayor Lawrence Yule also gave Hastings water the all-clear, confirming the tanker supplying fresh water to Havelock North was not contaminated with E. coli. Testing shows the E. coli indicator found on Thursday was a "false positive". 

The cause of the campylobacter in the Havelock North bore is still unknown.

Havelock North businesses have taken a hit from the outbreak, but they are not eligible for compensation from insurance companies. My Yule said he is considering discussions with insurance companies over the issue. 

Hastings District Council are making a business support package, and Mr Yule said he's approaching central Government to supplement it. 

On Friday morning, other tests confirmed the 89-year-old woman who died during the gastro outbreak had contracted campylobacter.

The test results came in on Thursday night, however a post-mortem examination also showed she had other underlying health problems, coroner Peter Ryan says.

The extent to which campylobacter contributed to the woman's death remained unclear and would be the subject of his coronial inquiry.

The information had been made public at the request of health authorities "to assure there is transparent reporting of any death associated, in any way, with the campylobacter outbreak".

All Havelock North residents have been told to boil their drinking water for one minute as a precaution and wash their hands thoroughly.

Hastings water has been confirmed safe to drink.

DNA testing is being carried out on the bugs in the Havelock North supply to find out whether it came from birds, cattle or humans. Once that's established, it'll give the council a better idea of where to start looking.

Mr Yule said Hastings District Council will release all communications about the outbreak, to show who knew what details and when. He said he is furious at what he called false claims made by councillor Wayne Bradshaw that he knew about the outbreak earlier than Friday last week. 

The council's response to the crisis had been criticised by Mr Bradshaw. He said it should have been treated as a Civil Defence emergency, and action should have been taken on Thursday last week.

The council didn't do anything until Friday afternoon of August 12, after Mr Yule said an indicator test came back positive. Mr Yule said he didn't know about the problem until 2:30pm that day. Mr Bradshaw claimed the council knew the day before.

"That's completely incorrect. I was told at 2:30 on Friday afternoon," Mr Yule said. "There was an indicator of it on Friday and confirmation of it on Saturday."

If the Government's inquiry into the outbreak shows the council's response was flawed, Mr Yule said it'll be up to the people of Havelock North and Hastings to decide his fate.

"If ultimately my council or I have done something that has contributed to this, then I will take the consequences."

Labour MP Annette King said she visited Havelock North during the week, and the locals are "angry and disappointed".

"The communication was poor, and part of that poor communication came from the Government. [Local Government Minister] Sam [Lotu-Iiga] didn't say anything until the urgent debate."

Paula Bennett, appearing on Paul Henry alongside Ms King, said a statement in the House "wasn't going to make any difference".

"We've been right alongside the council… our local MP has been there. On Monday morning we were getting briefings to make sure we were up with it.

"We've been following it right the way through, putting in whatever support has been needed."

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said declaring a water emergency in Havelock North won't help fix the contamination problem.

Legislation allows that but Dr Coleman said everything that needs to be done is being done.

Ms King said she backs the Government's inquiry, and won't call for any heads to roll until it is complete and a fuller picture of the situation has emerged.