“The tactics Horowhenua District Council used to discourage people from commenting on sewage spills is long-standing and insidious … the whole thrust of one workshop was aimed at undermining the credibility of WECA (Water and Environmental Care Assn Inc.) members”
“We were given a plausible explanation from staff” and then urged to “get [the message] out there because these people who were complaining didn’t know what they were talking about … as I was generally kept out of the loop, only occasionally did I hear what tactics they were planning to use to discredit these people”
Former HDC Councillor, Anne Hunt
In our previous articles on the topic of the Horowhenua District Council’s role in pollution of its waterways with inadequately treated sewage (see links to articles below) former Councillor Anne Hunt described how Mayor Brendan Duffy had coerced Councillors into supporting the Council CEO’s assertion that HDC was not guilty of polluting Lake Horowhenua. In other words “deny it”.
In 2007 Councillors Were Expected to “Toe the Line” on Shannon’s Waste Water Treatment (or lack thereof)
Mrs Hunt also described a second occasion when she and her fellow Councillors were expected to “toe the line”. (Go here to read of the first).
This occurred shortly before the election in 2007, the year she first contested the Mayoralty.
Once again, the problem was the Shannon waste water treatment.
In the Environment Court a couple of years later, HDC would admit “pumping 5.1 million litres of partially treated sewage into the Manawatu River” (Dominion Post 2007).
Here in the video you will see straight sewage going into Stansell’s Drain
Horizons lawyer Ben Vanderkolk told the Court that 5000 cubic metres of sewage was pumped into Stansell’s Drain over 48 hours. “Rudimentary” filter screens including plastic netting had been erected at the entrance to the drain, but this had not stopped contaminants and some sanitary items entering the stream. (Dominion Post 2007)
At the time, HDC had tried to hush it up, and ironically it was Ross Campbell who alerted Cr Hunt to the problem. Stansell’s Drain feeds into the Mangaore tributary of the Manawatu River. There were whitebaiters downstream, so it was a serious health issue.
“There were whitebaiters downstream, so it was a serious health issue”
Horizons had decided to take legal action against the Horowhenua, admitting that it should have been harder on Horowhenua earlier, so that the years of waste being pumped into the drain could have been stopped.
It was dubbed by Green Party MP Russel Norman as a “terrible example of environmental pollution” and Massey University ecologist Mike Joy said the discharge would have had a big impact on the river which was already severely polluted.
“…once again the elected members were expected to support the public relations spin from HDC”
Behind the scenes, there was a flurry of e-mails highly critical of Horizons, Mrs Hunt remembers, and once again the elected members were expected to support the public relations spin from HDC.
Ratepayers would be stung twice with legal costs for their district and regional councils, and ultimately the fine.
David Ward as district’s chief executive at the time would later try to claim that by pleading guilty, the council was ‘taking a responsible attitude”, and ratepayers ‘should be pleased’ additional legal costs had been avoided.
HDC’s resource consent for Shannon had expired in 2001, but a temporary renewal was issued for four years while a new consent was sought.
Despite a council meeting that week, Councillors were not notified when an application for a new resource consent was eventually filed in 2005. WECA filed a submission on this proposal. When Councillors were finally allowed to have some input into an amended proposal, Mrs Hunt says …
“…the whole thrust of this workshop was aimed at undermining the credibility of *WECA members …”
Mrs Hunt says the tactics used to discourage people from commenting on sewage spills is longstanding and insidious.
This week, her priority is supporting Cr Ross Campbell who is facing a code of conduct complaint as a result of his comments on TV 3. Mrs Hunt had several of those during her time on council.
So Who is your District Council Representing?
Being kept “out of the loop” meant that Mrs Hunt was effectively prohibited from representing your (the rate payers’) wishes with regard to protecting your resources. I would reiterate here, these Councillors are elected by you. You should rightfully expect that your views are going to be reasonably represented by them. This is fundamental to democracy. It is very reasonable to expect that the voiced concerns of Councillors who are fulfilling their role, will not be overridden by a CEO. However, this is where the conflict lies. These CEOs are operating as directors of companies. Consider, your local District Councils are registered on Dun and Bradstreet’s website as companies. (Check this out for yourself). A company is:
“… any formal business entity for profit which may be a corporation, a partnership, association or individual proprietorship…” SOURCE
We need to be asking ourselves, to whom do our Councils (that are really companies) owe their allegiance? To you the ratepayer/citizen? Or to corporate/company interests, given they exist ‘for profit’?
As for silencing District Councillors from speaking out, people should be more than outraged at this. It is a clear abuse of the role entrusted to them by you the public.
On a final note, these courageous Councillors who have put their heads above the parapet and spoken truth deserve our thanks. Do consider emailing them in that regard, or leave a comment here. And the same goes for the local residents, in particular Mr Andrews, who have also stood up and been counted.
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*(Note, WECA is also on Facebook)
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