IT CERTAINLY has been interesting, if not slightly painful, watching the Te Mata track saga unfold.

It is a story that has quite a number of layers to it and hopefully, with our three-page Insight spread on the subject in today's paper, we have helped you understand the issue better.

We found out this week that respected councillor Malcolm Dixon attended a Te Mata Trust board meeting in September where plans for the track were discussed. Mr Dixon told us this week that the plans were "merely a sketch" so he did not pass information on to the Mayor, Sandra Hazlehurst.

However, we report today that Craggy Range Winery actually submitted the plans to the council for resource consent in August. Council officials, yes council officials, then approved the application in October. Weirdly, they did not see the need to consult or tell Mr Dixon and his fellow councillors.

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The issue is not so much about whether it is right or wrong to have a track zigzagging its way down probably our most significant landmark.

Rather, it is the process that was taken. There is no question Ngati Kahungunu should have been consulted and the full council should have deliberated on the matter.

When Sandra Hazlehurst put her hat in the ring to replace Lawrence Yule as mayor, she was quite forceful in rejecting claims that she would simply be a continuation of Mr Yule's reign. She was her own person, she said.

This newspaper, on behalf of the public, has, over the last number of years, taken issue with the frequent use of the public exclusion part of council meetings and the fact that some councillors, despite being elected to serve the people of the district, did not know about decisions taken by the council.

The Te Mata track debacle is not a good start to Ms Hazlehurst's fresh approach.

How could it be that we had an application for a major project on our most prized landmark and council officials pushed it through without thinking the full council needed to assess the political and cultural implications of the plan? The one councillor who did know about it, did not think it was worth raising with the mayor.

Surely this is not the way we want our council to operate.

It is simple — council officials and councillors need to communicate and the important decisions should always be made by our elected representatives.

After all, that is why they are there.