On Saturday, the DomPost published Marty Sharpe’s article, Councillors ‘hard of hearing, long-winded’. It revealed the previously withheld assessments of individual Councillors on the Regional Council’s Hearings Committee — Chairman Christine Scott, Eileen von Dadelszen, Ewan McGregor and Liz Remmerswaal — as evaluated by the HBRC’s own consultant (an experienced hearings commissioner) Brent Cowie.
Previously-released sections of the report, reviewed here and published here on BayBuzz, described a seriously flawed hearings process, sitting on top of a seriously deficient regional resource management plan. We were reassured by HBRC, of course, that the recommendations of the Cowie Report were “taken aboard” and being implemented.
But the further material published by the DomPost adds important personal performance context to the earlier analysis of procedure.
And in short, the picture painted is one of a sadly dysfunctional family — — pettiness, lack of respect and trust, under-achievers. Sounds like a Dilbert cartoon.
The problem is, this hearings committee is doling out our precious water, with serious environmental and economic consequences. Reading this report, how could any consent applicant — or the public — possibly have confidence that the regional council’s consenting process should be trusted?
The three senior members of the Hearings Committee have 30 years of Regional Council experience. Yet, as the report says, their process needs overhaul, they lack personal and professional confidence in one another, they make policy on the hoof, and the water allocation aspects of their resource management plan are so inadequate the report warns that the Council risks looking “incompetent”.
Thirty years of experience and Councillors Scott, von Dadelszen and McGregor still can’t get it right. In the private sector, after a performance review like this, this group would be sacked.
For me, this report raises the issue of whether Councillors have any business at all serving on hearings committees. Councillors are elected to make policy, not adjudicate benefits. It’s a confusion of roles and they lack the technical expertise. In the next term, HBRC must consider the option of using only independent hearings commissioners.