Hawke's Bay march to protest water crisis

  • 31/08/2016
Hawke's Bay march to protest water crisis

New Zealanders concerned with the health of the country's water will march from Havelock North to Hastings in protest this Saturday.

The 4km Walk for Water is a response to the water contamination crisis in Havelock North where more than 5000 people, a third of the town's population, were hit by a gastric illness following contamination of the water supply earlier this month.

"It's about unifying the community around the issue of water," one of the organisers, Bayden Barber, told a public meeting near Havelock North on Tuesday night.

"Water brings us all together - no matter who you are, what race you are if you can't have safe drinking water the community is going to fall to bits.

"Things need to change and this is an opportunity to make that change happen."

His "call to action" was met with cheers from many of the 300-odd who attended the first of two public meetings at the Riverbend Bible Church.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the panel - which included representatives from the Hawke's Bay District Health Board, the Hastings District Council and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council - would accept the invite to join the march.

Tuesday's meeting was an opportunity for authorities to provide an update on the contamination issue and for residents to vent their concerns.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule apologised for the "misery" the water contamination - the worst water-borne disease outbreak in the country - had caused.

However, he said it was still unclear what the source was, saying council would do all it could to find out.

Most residents said they were concerned about the lack of information they were given after the water supply tested positive for campylobacter and E.Coli, especially given many of the town's 14,000 population were elderly and did not have access to social media.

Some business owners, ratepayers and those who had been off work sick said they wanted more compensation to help with the impact of the contamination.

A second public meeting will be held at the same venue on Wednesday night.