And logic. And public accountability.

In a curious approach to mass psychology, the HB Regional Council has elected to tell us (the befuddled, easily alarmed public) that there might be 3000+ “contaminated” sites in Hawke’s Bay, but — lest we panic and move to Australia — they won’t tell us where they are.

What a novel approach to managing legitimate public angst … we know the sky is falling, but we’re not telling you where. And oh, by the way, it’s probably not falling everywhere. Whew, I’m relieved … how about you?

Now, it’s not that none of the public can know where the sites are (or might be); it’s just that most of us can’t be entrusted with the information.

But even you, my loyal BayBuzz reader, can get the information if you ask about a specific property in which you (or your real estate agent or lawyer or surveyor on your behalf) might have an “interest.” [One of my neighbors uses his mini-digger an awful lot around his property … I’m beginning to get “interested” in what he’s burying!]

Moreover, the pertinent notice of possible contamination has been placed on the public LIM (land information memoranda) reports for properties in Napier and Wairoa, but not in Hastings or Central HB. So, if you or I had the time, we could go examine each LIM report to find the data for two districts, but not two others. How daffy!

By conceding that some of us can have access to the contamination information, but not others, the Regional Council has put itself on shaky legal ground. Indeed, even if the information were consistently withheld from everyone, I suspect that the Ombudsman might take a different view of the Council’s policy.

To test that proposition, BayBuzz is making a modest, but formal, information request of the Regional Council. In the first instance, to keep it simple, we are requesting identification of only those (possibly) contaminated sites that: a) are owned by local governments; b) are accessible to the public in the normal course of events, creating potential exposure hazards; or c) are possibly leaching contaminants into fresh or ground water.

The public has a right to know precisely what the potential scope of health and ecosystem hazards might be. And the HBRC cannot take years to suss out the situation in secret. One would assume that the Council is prudent enough to have “triaged” the list and given some sort of “rating” to the sites they consider most problemmatic — and therefore rank first on the list to be examined. The sites highest on the list should also be publicly identified … immediately.

The balance of sites can remain anonymous, for now.

BayBuzz will keep you informed of our progress with this request.

Tom

P.S. While we’re at it, perhaps the Hastings and CHB Councils can explain why they haven’t even taken the precaution of including “potential contamination” warnings on their LIM reports.

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