Havelock North can lead on water quality - Anna Lorck

If ever there was a time to champion and lead the way to protect New Zealand's fresh water, Havelock North and Hastings has it right now.

Who would have ever imagined that the vibrant and healthy community of Havelock North, would become the epi centre for New Zealand's biggest ever waterbourne disease outbreak?

We have been the real life consequence of what happens when we think our water is so safe and in abundance that we can take it for granted.

There is bitter irony in having to buy water back from the export bottling companies, including those in our backyard, simply because Havelock North's own water supply isn't safe to drink.

It's certainly left more than the tainted taste of chlorine in many local residents' mouths. 
But what happened from here on in is critical. We do have the biggest opportunty of our lifetime to use the outcome of this water disaster to create real and positive change for our future generations.

For me, and I am sure so many others, the message is simple - we want safe, clean drinking water, we want clean, swimmable rivers. And as a growing region we need water to be able to harvest our water to feed our crops and trees and animals, not giving it away to go offshore in plastic bottles.

Havelock North and Hastings can make a real difference, if we choose to use the water disaster to help raise and address the wider issues of how we value and look after our water.

Both as individuals and collectively, we can decide if we are going to stand up for the right to fresh, safe drinking water and clean swimmable rivers. Or do (what I have the feeling many of those in charge of providing us with safe drinking water would rather us do) quietly go back to "normal".

Over the past few days I have read messages and heard from people wanting to shut the story down because this is the best way to move "onwards and upwards". 

Warnings have been sent out to businesses that continuing to feed the story by speaking to journalists will just breed more brand damage. But this approach isn't going to fix what's really broken around the quality of our drinking water and rivers.

Sadly this has nothing to do with protecting our rights to stand up for clean safe water, but it has everything to do with letting those in power control us.

Shutting a story down simply plays into the hands of those who no longer want to be in the spotlight, just in case it exposes them to more public scurtiny and questioning.

It's an interesting twist because it was those in power, who at first relied on the media to help them get their messages out. What it actually shows is that those in power are scared, because it's local issues which confront our community that lead to change.

Just because the councils and the DHB have fronted up, and the Government has "given" Havelock North up to $100,000 for marketing won't fix the problems.

Of course we need to do all we can to help the village because we love Havelock North and the community needs time and respect to heal and recover.

We must not appear ungrateful or sound negative or dare to get political.

But let's get real. Protecting our water is a local, regional and national government responsibility. Everything to do around poor water quality leads back to a failure in political decision making. There has been criticism from all directions, but something I truly believe would have made helped the Havelock North community at its time of greatest need would have been the Government calling a drinking water emergency which would provided more resources and a quicker response.

I welcome the inquiry into Havelock North's water contamination and will be interested to see what if anything the government could have done differently and whether the government and local authorities moved fast enough.

It's important that lessons are learned and if we want to make sure this never happens again then we have to put those in power on notice - things will have to change. 
We have been given the biggest wake up call of any community in our country. We can start a positive and progressive movement for better water quality and protection and look at the far more wider issues that threaten our water.

What we are going to see more and more people, from all walks of life, being prepared to do whatever it takes becasue everyone owns the water and we are all responsible for protecting it.

Never has there been a time to stand together and lead change. It's time to walk the talk and do far more to protect our water. And we must keep the story alive, because our future generations depend on what we choose to do now.