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Moanataiari Governance

The people of Moanataiari have had their patience tested more than once over the last twelve month as the wheels of bureaucracy have ground onwards towards a resolution of their arsenic (and other elements) contamination problem.

Additionally, totally erroneous stories have appeared in other media incorrectly reporting the content of the numerous press releases from TCDC. Over 50 meetings have been held in the community by TCDC to explain and keep residents up-to-date with the progress of investigations, and proposed remediation.

These events culminated in a meeting of the Governance Group on 5 December comprising David Hammond, Peter French (TCDC), Mike Mendoza (MoE), Bob Laing and Simon Friar (WRC), Shane Bromley (community rep.) and Wati Ngamane (Ngati Maru). The DoE, WRC and TCDC representatives were accompanied by their technical people, and Mayor Leach was a prominent speaker, though he is not on the Governance Group.

The proposed resolution put forward by the TCDC technical people was reasoned, reasonable and backed by the most extensive consultant expertise available. Golder Associates of Australia are the recognised Australasian experts in the field, and their report was peer reviewed by two other world recognised experts. All agreed that while levels of arsenic were of a concern in five of the eight designated blocks at Moanataiari, that the risk was such that it could be managed with minimum input through the implementation of management plans with residents that may involve some non-invasive surface soil supplementation, and other treatments where rates are highest.

This will not satisfy the demand expressed during public forum from the thirty odd residents who attended to have their LIM reports cleansed, but this simply cannot happen in these circumstances, and values will be affected as a result. This may be a cause for consideration of a class action against the Council in due course for negligence in regard to its original approval of the sub-division.   

What we witnessed yesterday was a superb demonstration of ‘backside-covering’ by bureaucrats whose only ‘skin in the game’ is that they may later be called to account in regard to the ‘process’ followed in arriving at a course of action. The charge was led by WRC Chief Executive Bob Laing whose ‘points of order’, and constant niggling objections were treated with inordinate patience by all others present, dragging an 11.30am meeting out till 5pm for no good reason other than to stamp his extreme caution (“I am conservative on these issues”!) on the meeting. His own staff appeared ill prepared, but regardless, he was determined that there would be no agreement with the ‘non-physical’ recommendation until after it had been further researched, regardless of the $700,000 already expended – shades of David Bain!

Laing was supported throughout by the Ministry of Environment’s Mike Mendoza who stuck grimly to the Departments 100 ppm standard that would require physical remediation regardless of cost – or that was how it seemed. The objections were spurious to the ears of any objective observer. The background work accomplished by the TCDC people was outstanding, and not given due credence. Mayor Leach’s exasperation was clear for all to see, and in the end the resolution was put on Wati Ngamane’s motion. The TCDC proposal was only adopted on a majority decision, and opposed by Laing, Friar and Currie.

The effect of this imbroglio is that the recommendation of the Governance Group will now go to our Council with a split decision, and any action that follows will no doubt then be entirely at the expense and risk of TCDC,

This is not an unimportant decision – it is one that we will have to live with because even the moderate expenditure contemplated in the recommendation will be entirely on the shoulders of our ratepayers. More importantly, future risk will need to be likewise shouldered. Any suggestion of ‘dig and dump’ as suggested in the alternative motions would involve a tens of millions of dollars commitment by this Council with no just cause.

At the end of the day, the utter fury of our representatives, frustration of the residents present, and the determination of the WRC and DoE people to preserve their minimal financial liability, and precious reputations was plain for all to see. If ever there was a demonstration of the reason why we need to separate from Waikato, we saw it yesterday. Bob Laing would fit well into the 'Yes Minister' genre.

On the other hand, I believe that we were very well served, both at the table and in the background, and that the Chair - Deputy Mayor French did a fine job in holding it all together. It is a pity that we are so badly served at Regional level and by Wellington suits who appeared totally removed from reality.




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Reader Comments (1)

The Governance Group has decided to take the lowest cost option, presumable not for that reason alone, but because it offered the best practical protection of human health, when all other options were considered. Or is that an invite for a Tui moment?

As a non TCDC, but Regional Council ratepayer I am grateful for the WRC and MfE representatives ensuring that the cost of any remediation will fall where it lays. That is with TCDC ratepayers, whose Council were solely responsible for the decision to issue subdivision consents for this obviously contaminated site.

It is unfortunate that the LIMS reports can not be changed for the individuals concerned but that is the reality of their situation and I am sure Mayor Glen Leach will have no problem explaining the situation to these people.

December 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

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