Attached here is the exact challenge Mayors Yule and Arnott laid before the Regional Council back on May 3rd. I urge you to read their message in its entirety.

Here are some excerpts.

Regarding conflict of Interest and perceived conflict of interest of elected members:

“When these entities [Ed: referring to HBRIC in this case] are represented by directors who are also Councillors it is impossible to provide a community with confidence that decision making processes are transparent, fair and undertaken without a degree of predetermination. The position that the members of both HBRIC and the HB Regional Council find themselves, in relation to the dam project, may become untenable.”

Regarding shared chief executive role:

“…the structural model of sharing the the role [Ed: of Chief Executive, Andrew Newman] between HBRIC and HB Regional Council exposes the Council and ratepayers to significant risk around independent advice that may be given to the Council. In our view this is not best practice and exposes the Council to financial and legal risk.”

Regarding risk analysis:

“…we believe that a thoroughly prepared risk analysis report (single document) would be helpful to all parties including the Council itself. This would be consistent with the best practice advocated by the Office of the Auditor General in Local Government capital works planning …

“It is a fact that these projects carry large single factor and multi factor risk elements including the bottom line risk of cost overruns of both capital and operating that could fall entirely on current and future ratepayers of the region.”

Regarding specific financial information:

“…we suggest that further work be undertaken in the area of feasibility (the big picture financially), insurance, certainty and sensitivity analysis around pricing, cost overrun risk and uptake lag …

“…without further assurance around the financial modelling there is an inevitable risk for the ratepayers that is larger than any other single financial risk that we are aware of or can reasonably forecast. Unless this work is completed in a manner that brings confidence to the community, the project itself (regardless of its merits) runs a serious risk of being fatally flawed in its process.”

The mayors, speaking for their respective Councils, then offered to directly fund a peer review of the issues they had raised.

To me, it sounds like the mayors are rather nervous about this enterprise, as much as they would like to believe there’s a pot of gold at the end of Andrew’s rainbow.

Indeed, the mayors — with their much closer perspective — appear far more concerned than supposedly independent decision-makers in Wellington, whom HBRC has lobbied assiduously — and of course one-sidedly — for well over two years now.

With the Prime Minister (joining  a chorus of his Ministers) gushing over the dam recently in Dannevirke, who can seriously believe that the scheme will receive any kind of objective and un-predetermined review by a Government-appointed Board of Inquiry? If HBRC and the Government have such confidence in their scheme, why not direct it to the Environment Court, as the law permits?

Attached here is the HBRC response, which asserts that there is “plenty of time” to address the issues and that “we will take further advice on all issues”. Hence, no ‘time out’ in the process as requested by local iwi, business and environmental leaders.

So, now what happens is that HBRC spends another $9 million over the next several months attempting to progress the water storage scheme through the environmental consenting process. Effectively, HBRC wants to make the project a fait accompli.

HBRC realises that whatever shaky political capital this project holds at the moment is very possibly more than it will hold when more environmental and economic realities are forced on the table … or a Labour Government takes a fresh look.

So thank you for your letter mayors, says Fenton, but full speed ahead.

Tom Belford


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1 Comment

  1. These issues are all too important to ignore. The HB public need to keep challenging the regional council to take them seriously.

    The best way is to put up credible challengers for this year’s local body elections. There is nothing like the whiff off potential defeat to motivate an incumbent into action!

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