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Govt accused of dereliction of duty

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/08/2016

The government has been accused in parliament of dereliction of duty over the Havelock North contamination crisis.

Labour asked for and was granted an urgent debate on Tuesday and health spokeswoman Annette King used it to criticise the way authorities reacted.

"This is a health crisis and needs urgent investigation by the government," she said.

"It has been slow to react, there is no leadership, and the district health board isn't resourced to cope with it."

Ms King said the government had initially ignored it.

"The Red Cross and Civil Defence are only now getting involved, water tankers arrived only yesterday ... this shows a dereliction of duty," she said.

Acting Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga rejected Ms King's criticism and accused her of playing politics with peoples' lives.

"Now is not the time for recrimination, now is not the time to point the finger," he said.

"It is the time to ask what we can do to help these people."

Mr Lotu-Iiga said the Ministry of Health would be working alongside the council in its inquiry.

"The government is standing alongside the people in Hawkes Bay, assisting in any way it can."

The Green Party's Kevin Hague said serious questions had to be answered.

"We have heard a day elapsed before anyone was told about a positive sample being found," he said.

"How did the contamination occur, how was it allowed to occur, how did the system fail, could the warning have been sounded earlier?"

Local MP Craig Foss, a National member, said it wasn't the time for political grandstanding but he agreed with some of the things Ms King had said.

"It is not good enough for the people of Havelock North to be upset, frustrated and at the end of their tether," he said.

"It is not appropriate for the local member not to be informed at the right time.

"There seems to be some serious information gaps."

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