Good golly, Miss Molly! When I read the 203-page independent review of the WTTP by Robert Domm, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was comprehensive. It was well written. It made clear what had gone wrong, provided guidance for future decision-making on this and other matters, all the while determinedly not blaming any individual. All I could say was wow!
It even provided guidance so we could, despite council and MHW's confidentiality pledge, find out the financial result of the settlement. Wow! I thought the report would settle WTTP issues, helping us to move forward. I was wrong.
Judging from reactions, the report functions like the blind old men and the elephant. Each respondent seizes on some small feature to justify their preconceived interest, thereby ignoring the whole point.
One correspondent insists the plant functioned well into 2012, despite the report's findings that it never functioned well, from its commissioning in 2007, because its design was flawed. Councillor Rob Vinsen still insists that the WTPP could be salvaged, be incorporated into a revised plant, despite the report's advice that it would mean throwing good money after bad and that the desire to save money paved the slope to the governance failures.
Disparate views of those governance failures hang over this coming election.
A number of people present on the Laws councils or even before have been silent as to their role in decision-making. As they're running again for council it would be fair for us to hear from Randhir Dahya, Ray Stevens, Philippa Baker Hogan and Rob Vinsen just what they knew or didn't know, did or didn't do, in the decision-making for the old plant.
The report and the prospect of a new plant -- this one decided after a robust, thorough, 18-month council process -- has provoked a new group, the team or voting block of four to demand the impossible: their voice in deciding on the new plant when it's been done and dusted and the contract signed. Their open letter #3 (Chronicle, September 21,) signed by David Bennett, Alan Taylor, Murray Cleveland and Graeme Young, takes our politics to a dark place of accusation and cherry-picked allegation that is populist politics at its most divisive.
In a style only too familiar in our recent past with Michael Laws and his Vision team, this new group chooses to run against the present council, conflating the Annette Main council with its forerunner, saddling it with the responsibility for the failed WTTP and opining that the present council under Ms Main has been incompetent in its decisions on the need to solve a wastewater problem it inherited from the previous Laws regime.
Team4 does itself no credit by lumping together the two very different councils. Moreover, their failure to give due credit to the hard work of Ms Main's council, in its months of consideration of alternate possibilities before presenting a new plant certain to be financially and politically costly, deliberately ignores reality.
If this council had done little else, it deserves credit for restoring both our reputation and civic spirit after six years of the Laws debacle.
I've had no serious reservations until now about the four as individual candidates. I've welcomed Mr Bennett to the hustings, regardless of our policy differences.
One takeaway from the Domm report is the abject failure inherent in having a group or a party having taken over council, practically guaranteeing an echo chamber of decision-making versus the individual outlook of strictly independent councillors which might have allowed the proper effective due diligence.
The divisiveness of the approach taken by this block of four should give pause. Their letter reminded me that Michael Laws also rode into town, attacking imagined "elites" (among whom would have been these four) with a promise to save us money.
One solid virtue of the Domm Report is that it offers a way forward to a city that needs all the constructive unity it can get.
Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.