Waitakere councillors still in dark over Aisling's drain death

By Wayne Thompson

A month after the body of toddler Aisling Symes was found in a stormwater drain in Waitakere, city councillors are still waiting for information on how the tragedy occurred.

The child's body was recovered from the piped drain at a Henderson property on October 12 after a week-long search for her.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey called for a report by senior council engineers over management of the drain after it was revealed that five complaints were made about it flooding, including safety concerns after a build-up of water blew its manhole cover off.

However, two days later the acting chief coroner Garry Evans opened an inquiry into the cause and circumstances of the 2-year-old child's drowning - only 200m from where she was last seen.

Mr Evans asked for the council to compile a full report on the drain as part of the investigation by police and coroner's officers.

The council report was to be provided this week for Mr Evans' inquiry into the reasons for the child's death.

Yesterday, a Herald survey of councillors revealed that the council's response to the coroner's request had resulted in an information blackout.

Eleven said they knew little about the problems concerning the drain in Longburn Rd, Henderson - apart from what they learned in a briefing about the handling of the five complaints.

"We have not had much detail and we were told not to talk to the media until the official report goes to the coroner and the issue is dealt with," said Councillor Brenda Brady.

However, Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said a "jolly good look" had been taken at reported concerns about the drain's safety.

Council senior staff were working with an independent consultant to look at ways to improve safety and that information would benefit all urban local authorities, said Mrs Hulse.

Council public affairs director Wally Thomas said councillors were not being deliberately kept in the dark because the report had not been finished. "Councillors will be briefed on the report but its contents will be confidential because it may prejudice the outcome of the coroner's inquiry."

The family of Aisling Symes said they had no information on the council report.

- NZ Herald

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