Mayor refuses to apologise for boil notice issue

23:00, Feb 13 2014

A boil-water notice, originally intended to be in force for 10 years in the Horowhenua town of Tokomaru, has been lifted after three years following an admission by the council that it should never have been imposed in the first place.

The Horowhenua District Council lifted boil-water notices from both Shannon and Tokomaru yesterday with the support of the MidCentral District Health Board and the Ministry of Health, who confirmed they are no longer necessary.

Mayor Brendan Duffy said "for the first time ever" MidCentral District Health Board had given the council notification that the boil-water notice in Tokomaru was no longer necessary.

"For a variety of reasons, both the health department and the council have had a boil-water notice in place, each relying on the other to make the decision on how long it should stay in place," he said.

"There has been a perception by the council that it was there at a request of the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Health has assumed the council had it in place as a protective mechanism.

"What's more important is that as a consequence of some meaningful discussion, both parties have come to the realisation that . . . it is now no longer necessary." Mr Duffy said the council would not be apologising to the Tokomaru community for the misguided boil-water notice.


Council chief executive David Clapperton said the council's action in placing the notice was advised by MidCentral District Health Board.

"I think it's about relationships and communication," he said. "But there are also responsibilities in terms of public health and what their responsibilities are."

Mr Clapperton said the placing of the boil-water notice and the length of time it was left there "is part of the reason we've actually gone through this review - to ask the question of why [it] was on there".

Only one transgression, or negative result, came back on Tokomaru's water when initial tests were done about three years ago.

Further testing was carried out in the same week of the transgression, which all came back negative.

MidCentral drinking-water assessor Peter Wood said a boil-water notice could be recommended after only one transgression, but there would be exceptions that might include waiting for secondary results. "We do it if we get a major event, but if we get something [a result] and we're not too sure on why it has happened or if it could be a laboratory error then we will wait for the second test to come through."

Tokomaru Village and Community Association chairman Peter Ward said he was satisfied the recognised risk factors had been dealt with, although the past year had been a "bit acrimonious".

"We've had independent endorsement, so I can only say the community will be very happy over the result," he said. "There were a lot of people in the community who had not boiled their water at all.

"I believe there was a miscommunication because precautionary is not something you should use in a notice like that, it should be black and white, you do it or you don't."

Tokomaru clean-water advocate Christine Toms, who took a petition to Parliament, said the ordeal had been "completely unprofessional".

Mr Duffy said the council had the Tokomaru water supply scheduled for upgrade in its Long Term Plan about 2024.

In the meantime, it is reviewing what other options are available.

Manawatu Standard