The Whanganui council has made the wrong decision -- again.
The mayor and chief executive have said it's important that the wastewater treatment plant be affordable for community and industry, and that if a cheaper alternative "should arise" then they would look at it.
At $41 million, the Cardno design is simply not affordable. So why does council refuse to look at alternative options?
The original cost from BTO to "fix" the plant was $3.5 million -- why isn't that being followed up? MWH put forward a new scheme costed at about $20 million -- why isn't that being further explored?
I advised all councillors that another engineering firm, Mott McDonald, had indicated it could design a scheme cheaper than $41 million. It would provide capex and opex costs for two options for only $40,000. This is exactly what councillors wanted from their vote in October 2015, so why isn't that option being looked at?
Everybody wants a cheaper solution, but council refuses to ask the questions necessary to find one. The independent inquiry is a waste of time and money because it purposely avoids the question of whether or not the current plant is salvageable. It is time to elect new councillors who are seriously committed to finding a cheaper solution.
$41.2 million new wastewater treatment plant signed off by Whanganui District Council.
I am shocked the council agreed to proceed with a gold-plated replacement plant designed to cater for our city and wet industries' combined wastewater when four of our largest wet industries (Affco Imlay, Open Country Dairy, Land Meats, Tasman Tanning) have signalled they do not want to be included.
Without their waste, the new plant will handle less than a third of the load it was designed for. And there will be no income from these wet industries to help spread the operating costs -- it will all fall back on ratepayers. An analogy would be buying a Mack truck to provide the transport needs of a Mini. And with 70 per cent less solids to dispose off, is the $7 million dryer add-on still necessary?
At Tuesday's extraordinary council meeting, councillors were bullied into signing off the new Cardno-designed plant under threat of $10,000-per-day fines for breaching resource permit deadlines. The Environment Court would only impose these fines if the deadline for commissioning the new plant, December 31, 2018, were missed or if council sent untreated wastewater to sea past the expiry of the temporary consent permit in May 2019.
The consent permit's August 6, 2016 deadline for the new plant site establishment has been missed, which is why the chief executive and mayor have been keen to get a contractor to start building the new plant immediately.
But this deadline should have been delayed so cheaper options, with the wet industries excluded, could have been considered. No one from council sought such a delay, which might have been favourably considered so long as it did not impact on the new plant commissioning date of December 31, 2018.
Instead of council suing the old plant designers, MWH, they should have given them the opportunity to fix the failing plant. The impact has been rate increases going forward of 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent a year. And council debt projected to exceed $100 million next year and $129 million in 2018 is a terrible legacy to leave to our children and grandchildren.
�Andy Jarden is a Whanganui mayoral candidate in the October election.
You would have thought common sense would be applied and this crucial decision [to build the new wastewater plant] held over for the new council to deal with, as well as waiting for the results of the inquiry.
But no, apparently not. The current council has found it necessary to go and make another bad decision, on top of all the others that have already been made, and will now encumber the new mayor and council, as well as the city, with a $40m-plus bill that will cripple the town for decades to come.
We already have the highest rates in the country and now they are going to rise even more to pay for someone else's mistakes.
Let's hope the inquiry identifies the person(s) responsible for this mess. If they are an engineer, maybe the ratepayers of Whanganui could sue them? They should have some kind of negligence cover as part of their membership to their governing body.
David Bennett's open letter from August 10 shows some clear evidence that critical information was received at council and not acted on. Explanations are needed and intervention necessary at the highest level.
A critical question in the decision-making -- is the new plant affordable for the community? -- has been totally overlooked.
Well, we know who to vote for now at the next election. Anderson, Vinsen and Baker-Hogan voted NO on Tuesday and should be there in the next council.
Those that voted "yes" need to get the message from ratepayers that this decision is just not good enough. One councillor missed the vote. Will they expect to get paid if they are not there to carry out the function for which they were elected?
New Zealand has been apparently been relying on dodgy carbon credits. Reliance on those is a reflection on its failure to play its part in the global fight to reduce harmful emissions effects as a percentage of national emissions.
New Zealand has been the biggest user of fraudulent Ukrainian and Russian hot air carbon credits. Those credits are not backed by real emissions and the Morgan Foundation claims they may be linked to organised crime. We need a new plan to cut New Zealand's emissions that includes a strong carbon price, is independently overseen and linked to a national carbon budget. Getting rid of those dodgy credits is vital to our credibility.
The Emission Trading Trading Scheme so far has done little to persuade polluters to reduce their emissions. Nature in New Zealand needs strong action on climate change, otherwise damage to our ecosystem could be severe.
Science v creationism
Lest some of your readers were misled by Mandy Donne-Lee's letter ("Ark science", August 4), I offer the following corrections.
At least 80 per cent of "credentialled scientists" are avowed evolutionists, atheist or agnostic, and contain the world's leaders in their fields, including those of mathematics, physics, paleontology, geology, chemistry and the biological sciences. Of the remaining 20 per cent, the majority are declared agnostics or deists, not theists, leaving a very small number who "believe the biblical account and timeline" of the creationist position.
The "evidence" adduced by Ms Donne-Lee is a parcel of nonsense long since dealt with by genuine scientific exploration, experiment and evidence gathering. It is the creationist belief system founded on the text of one religion that is "a fundamental barrier to really considering [that] evidence".
In his 2016 book, What We Cannot Know, Marcus Du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, quotes Stephen Hawking thus: "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge". Such illusion lies at the root of creationism.