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Moanataiari Options Finally Out 

In a release made inexplicably at 6am this morning (more on this later), Council has published the final report on options that the Governance Group intends to present at a meeting open to the public at midday (sorry, wrong - it is 11.30am) on 5 December.

Based on the content of the release, it appears that there will be substantial  public interest, and attendance at this meeting. You need to get there early if you wish to register to make any contribution during the Public Forum section at the commencement. 

The recommendation of the TCDC staff is that the meeting:

  1. Receives the report.
  2. Approves the recommendation made by the Thames-Coromandel District Council staff component of the project management group to implement the recommended solution described in this report as Scenario B - Non-physical works response.
  3. Approves of collaboration between the Ministry of Health, the Waikato DHB, the Ministry for the Environment, the Waikato Regional Council and the Thames-Coromandel District Council to develop an awareness programme and assistance scheme as the basis for the recommended response.
  4. Escalates this recommendation to their respective agencies for approval. 

Scenario B Non-physical works:

It is acknowledged that Ministry for the Environment and Waikato Regional Council staff currently do not agree with this scenario. 

This scenario is based on an awareness creation programme promoting behavioural changes, providing safe soil to grow vegetables in and providing some assistance to property owners in affected areas such as Block 2 to cover exposed material in high traffic areas and other similar solutions such as are currently promoted by the Ministry of Health. 

This option, if selected, will need to be developed in all its aspects once an agreed way forward is established between the Ministry of Health and the project agencies.  One of these aspects which will need to be fleshed out is the nature of assistance than can be provided and how that can be funded.

This is an on-going awareness programme and issues such as longevity of response will need to be addressed within this partnership approach.

With the cooperation of the project agencies, a similar programme should be considered for the wider Thames given 

What is clear is that there has been substantial disagreement between our Council representatives, and those representing the Department of Conservation, and Waikato Regional Authority. The latter do not want a decision on remediation to be taken at this point, and prefer the following resolution:

Receives the report, and defers the selection of a remedial option until the following has been undertaken:    a. consideration of the Ministry of Health’s comments on the proposed remedial measures.  b. consideration of the peer review of the Health Risk Assessment facilitated by Ministry of Health.  c. a robust cost benefit analysis that incorporates both health and non- health factors is undertaken. 

The suggested action favoured by TCDC is basically an education campaign, together with a little assistance for property owners to cover exposed material in high traffic areas.

Clearly, the Ministry and the WRC staff are far more cautious and do not agree that the cost:benefit analysis provided in the Report is sufficiently far-reaching. They clearly lean in the direction of a more interventionist approach that could run into tens of millions, most of which would have to be sourced from our rate-payers, though the Government Remediation Fund may cover a percentage.

On a straight out cost/benefit basis, the basic $10m remediation proposal simply cannot be supported on the basis of the evidence thus provided. And does not bear comparison with the situation in Hamilton where 120,000 people are being involuntarily dosed on a daily basis with seven times the arsenic that is currently said to be the target level proposed by the Ministry of the Environment at Moanataiari.

This is very worrying situation - when bureaucrats disagree to this extent, you can bet that advanced backside covering is underway, and Ministry staff in particular will be wishing to avoid any situation where their Minister may be placed at risk through insufficient remediation leading to any detectable increase in cancer rates in the area. And yet, I am told that neither the the Ministry or WRC staff have never attended a single residents meeting (50 have been held), to discuss their concerns.  

It seems to me that our Council will in the end be faced with an extremely difficult decision that if favouring the staff recommendation may create a risk of liability into the future. On the other hand, continued prevarication as implied in the Ministry/WRC recommendation will not go down well with residents, and simply postpone the inevitable.  We have a different set of imperatives than those driving the Wellington/Hamilton shiny-bums, and I hope that our people are sufficiently well briefed to allay inevitable fears that may become evident next Wednesday. 

It is moot whether the Ministry of Health will have completed their analysis, and be in a position to provide a recommendation to the meeting on Wednesday. That seems highly unlikely, and that leaves the residents of Moanataiari no wiser, or in a position to support either of the two courses of action that have been put forward.

Whatever the upper limit contamination standard - ppm or %, there is a need for some pragmatism in the manner in which they are interpreted, and applied. Let's get on with it!




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