Council complacency

The peasants are revolting. Well, maybe not the peasants. More a mild uprising of refugees from Remuera; retired lawyers and judges - inhabiting the fair shores of Mangawhai.

Those bloody Aucklanders – coming up here and expecting such luxuries as transparency in public office and fancy stuff like ‘due process.’  Who do they think they are and what did they expect when they came ‘ere to dwell amongst us in our feudal kingdom? Democracy? Accountability?

We have mini-emperors and developer warlords who wield undue influence in the parochial passage-ways of power. Surely these rank outsiders should know that! Why don’t they know their place?

It’s the way it’s always been and until recently looked like it was the way it was going to stay.

Councils here seem to assume a general complacency gives an implicit mandate to swing free and easy with the public purse, and woe betide the ‘haters’ that criticise the tendency. They are being ‘negative’ or ‘anti-development’. Which is why we are so fond of publicly excluded meetings. Bloody public. Always criticising and asking annoying questions. Doesn’t the public understand that ‘commercially sensitive’ means ‘shut up and go away?’ But it seems the citizens of the Kaipara district have maxed out the credit on credulity towards the numbers being thrown at them by their council and have decided to ask some really tough questions like: how exactly were the figures arrived at for the now infamous sewerage system and who exactly signed off on it? As for who will pay for it; undoubtedly after the whole Mexican soap opera has played out -it will be rate-payers. Again. And we’re about to go another round with the release of the data for the mining survey yesterday.

Unfortunately those of us who own small businesses or are working 12 hours a day couldn’t make it to the big reveal by Phil Heatley at the Copthorne on a Tuesday lunchtime. I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities to attend public meetings regarding mining in Northland which the working public can attend. The numbers for mining are even more difficult to grasp than those for sewerage systems and it does little good for Phil to endlessly repeat that ‘we’ve been doing it’ for 50 years and it’s all been good so far because that’s simply not true.

Tax payers are about to fork out close to 22 million dollars on the most contaminated site in New Zealand; the abandoned Tui mine at Te Aroha. In 2009 the government estimate for the clean up was 9 million. The numbers have more than doubled in less than 3 years. The mining company has long gone and, like the Pike River disaster or even, to this point at least, the Rena clean up, it is the tax payer that is picking up the tab.

Nick Smith last year said that the Tui clean up was essential as the cost of the unstable tailings dam failing was potentially 168 million dollars. A conservative estimate at best because should that happen the livelihood of all the mussel farms and tourist operations in the Thames/Hauraki area would be decimated.

What is recreational fisheries for the entire Hauraki Harbour for the next decade worth? Scallops. Cockles. Pipi. All fish. Our international reputation for seafood exports?

A Japanese housewife is not going to differentiate between Hauraki mussels and those that come from Nelson – they’ll just stop buying NZ. It’s a lot to add up and there’s a lot to ask, like; ‘In the interests of corporate responsibility towards the environment and citizens will this government ask mining companies for an up front bond held in trust as in the reasonably successful arrangement at Golden Cross mine?’ Or; ‘Will the mining companies invest in upskilling Northland youth to work for them or will it simply outsource labour and service contracts ?’

If we’re given an opportunity to ask that is.

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