Hastings District Council have entered a plea of not guilty to the two charges brought by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council alleging a failure to abide by conditions contained in HDC's consent to draw water for the Havelock North water supply.
It's both bad and good. Bad in the sense that the Government Inquiry will now definitely be put off until the end of January. While the court case is unlikely to turn up anything of use to the wider public of New Zealand the Inquiry will. So any delay to the Inquiry is unwelcome. And bad in the sense that we all would have welcomed HBRC having had the good sense that this prosecution was not in anybody's interest and so withdrawing it. And bad in the sense that residents of Hastings District will be paying the legal fees of both sides.
But good in the sense that HDC are not simply caving in as councils so often do. Should the prosecution be successful there will be less incentive to look at how well HBRC has performed in managing the Heretaunga Plains and Tukituki River catchments. And this other issue is vitally important to the whole country - way more important than whether HDC sealed the top of their water bores or not.
As I have said before the condition that was allegedly breached is very general; HBRC never did any work to check whether the condition was being met during its annual compliance checks; and they have no internal expertise in the design and operation of water supply systems anyway. Despite HBRC Councillor Neil Kirton's cockiness over the prosecution it will be difficult to win. And it will likely boil down to "my consultant is better than your consultant".
Still we will all find out in January when the case is heard.