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Saturday
Aug032019

Weekend Herald Investigates Smart

Some dirty little secrets are emerging in the first iteration of a Weekend Herald  investigation by Mike Valentine into what appear to be some nefarious activities by and through Smart Environmental that may or may not have been known about by our Council and/or its employees.

They specifically involve the manner in which waste has been dumped at ours and other transfer stations operated by Smart on behalf of councils in the Western Waikato. At first sight and because of the credibility of the 'whistle-blowers,' the finger appears to point directly at management, and in particular Mr Graeme Christian, who has now conveniently disposed of his shareholding in the company to a multi-national.

That sale also greatly benefited all of the executive team, apparently including Mr Benjamin Day who was well known here before and after he was appointed deputy chief executive during Hammond's tenure as Chief Executive. He was later hired by Christian to run Smart's Tauranga operation following his abortive attempt to manage an Economic Development Committee for the Council - one of Mayor Leach's less illustrious innovations, and to which he appointed Christian. This Committee achieved 'sweet Fanny Adams' during its time, and was swiftly disposed of with the advent of Mayor Goudie and new CEO Rob Williams, along with Day.           

It seems that there has been even more going on that now warrants the attention of the Auditor General, and when the full truth emerges, we may find that the Company, and quite possibly certain individuals may be in a great deal of trouble. Just let us wait and see where the investigations lead us, but the allegations of breaking into the transfer station, and illicit dumping in the 'dead of night' does sound rather like the modus operandi  of the Soprano's, and not at all the stuff of normal Thames drama. Actually, I think it was the Gambino family that was 'up to its neck' in NY waste disposal - it is certainly a demonstably distasteful activity for Council staff here, and everywhere else it seems. 

My only concern on which I have previously posted relates to a matter touched on in the report regarding the attempt currently under way to get Council and Government agreement to take responsibility for disposing of the mountains of plastic and paper previously dispatched to places unknown under the terms of a supposedly 'tight' contract. Christian, who has reportedly taken tens of millions from the Company sale,  has mounted a strong campaign in that regard, and our mayors and even Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage seem well disposed to the idea -what suckers!

Here is an extract from Mike Valentine's report that relates to preceeding matter:

"The company is contracted to pay Thames Coromandel District Council $181 per tonne of waste — but appears to have been paying $77.05 per tonne, documents show.

The council has confirmed it is working with "appropriate authorities" to identify whether there is any evidence of illegal activity or contractual breaches.

Smart manages the council's seven transfer stations. The council investigation centres on whether Smart introduced the discount without advising or negotiating with the council in what sources believe would be in breach of a council contract."

And:

 "A former member of Christian's team said the "discount" was introduced in May last year after the company failed in its attempts to get compensation for the "Chinese situation", which had resulted in a ban on taking and paying for recycling.

That was despite the contract with the council, which states Smart took the risk and the rewards of recycling prices. The council had required the company to undertake a risk analysis before signing"

I hesitate to draw attention to the plastic stack fires over recent months. As one commenter has said - "where there is smoke, there is fire," Perhaps in the light of the Weekend Herald report, they do warrant closer investigation - just sayin'!

 

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Reader Comments (5)

Crazy stuff --akin to having a 'fox in charge of the chicken coop'
The local authorities have been found to be asleep at the wheel.
For some years we have heard of recyclables being mixed with domestic rubbish on the trucks, anecdotal evidence of cash payments to dump rubbish [and no receipts], after hours rubbish disposals etc.
Where there is smoke there is fire-- Councils must have been aware of problems of disposing of mountains of plastic in this area and throughout NZ.
China's refusal to take plastic, Indonesia sending 3 contaminated containers back to Australia-----
Maybe the MereMere proposal was not so silly after all. The Scandinavians seem to be able to incinerate their plastic[and other wastes] so why not NZ?

August 4, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPlastic Fantastic

Check whether Graeme Christian was behind Rob William's decision make TCDC Solid Waste Manager, David Lindsay, "redundant", thereby removing the only person who was scrutinising Smart's contract performance figures.

August 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNot So Smart

https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/114851285/cause-of-thames-plastic-bale-blaze-remains-unknown

August 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNot very Smart

Re David Lindsay.. I agree with the previous post.. David was astute and vigorous in his management of a very difficult contract, this did not win him many friends at SEL. Considering the scale of the current shared service contract, covering three districts, which TCDC were "expected" to lead and audit, it beggared belief that a specific role to manage the contract was deemed to be redundant and that David, who was doing a great job, as did his predecessor, was not required to meet those needs. Instead, the restructure called for rolling this integral activity into a melting pot along with 3 waters contract management (the 3 waters contract being another "success" story.. Not) under new, high level, inexperienced Infrastructure Managers, who appear to have failed.

The rot of and brazenness by the likes of SEL has happened on the new managements watch. So, no, let's not just look at Rob for the manner in which SEL appeared to have had a blank cheque book handed to them through, in part at least, an ill conceived restructure at TCDC, let's rather remember that Rob would have had an "experienced and astute" leadership "team" to aid him in making those crucial decisions, at least one would like to think that anyway.
It will be interesting to see if and how certain of those historically Teflon coated members of Rob's senior management team manage to talk their way out of this one, to be held accountable, or will it be business as usual, one of the minion's fault who ends up paying the price for the high level, well paid, but inept, ignorant (and yes, ignorance will be bleated despite evidence to the contrary) and lacking governance, management, and oversight in certain quarters of Council.

If this is evidence of how well the complex and costly contractual arrangements that are delivering our core services is being managed at a strategic level then one must wonder if and when this type bombshell will extend to Council's other major service delivery contract.Who knows, it may have already, we just don't know about it yet... That's a story for another day. All I know is, David, and his predecessor can sleep well at night knowing they fought the good fight, without much support.

I'm sure their current employers are rapt to have their expertise, astuteness and dedication that TCDC appeared to not, and probably still don't value. Come to think of it, there's probably a hundred of those stories since the decimation of 2012, although there appears to be just those resilient few still there from that time who have made hay, even if the sun wasn't shining, some because of who they are, the good and just, some because the minions they trampled on were mere footsteps on a ladder to the higher echelons. A certain recently resigned CB chair's comments somehow all make a bit more sense now...

One month on and what? - nothing. Nothing heard nor seen of this, very significant, issue.
That is, of course, not to say that much isn't happening behind the scenes - but who would know eh?
It ought also to be said that there is very little noise coming from the rate-payers.

September 4, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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