Future at risk
In leaving council, I despair at the possible make-up of the new one.
The progress the city seems to be making in reputation, slight population increase and turning the corner now seems to be all at risk.
Councillors Rob Vinsen and Philippa Baker-Hogan seem intent on their blind cost-reduction philosophy on the new WWTP. This mentality is what appears to have led to the design and failure of the last one.
Where's RISK in all of this?
Their philosophy should be consigned to the council shredder. They're wanting to experiment on top of a failed experiment.
All of Whanganui Beyond 2030's emphasis so far has been on the WWTP. They are devoid of any vision other than to suggest increasing the population by half with no strategy other than to build another sawmill - hardly high-tech. I understand we've had two attempts already and both failed.
Lists of prospective candidates featuring old white men and some newbies added to give token balance and asking you to vote purely on how candidates view the new WWTP is dangerously simplistic and wrong - a sign of regression, not progress.
Neville Johnson accuses councillors Helen, Jenny and me of "no interest at all" in his ferry proposal 2-3 years ago. Simply untrue.
I've asked him repeatedly to put numbers to his attractive concept and to create a net present value analysis, otherwise he'll never attract funders. He always fails to deliver. He presents his $14 million WWT plant, but again never any detail.
There is almost no talk of innovation.
Our prodigal son, Sir Paul Callaghan, would also likely be dismayed at what he would see.
We are the most "wired" city in the country re internet access and have a magical, sustainable lifestyle.
Whanganui District Councillor
I read Mr Domm's report about the sewage treatment saga and, unlike Jay Kuten, I was less than impressed by some aspects of it.
Mr Domm made three main points: The contract with MWH was not tested in the market by competitive quotation, the council accepted advice from staff and consultants without sufficient questioning, and they failed to ensure consistent peer reviewing of the MWH designs.
Mr Domm also brushed off suggestions that the existing plant had worked for a time and could, perhaps, be rehabilitated by saying that they came from vested interests.
He was, of course, restrained by his terms of reference, which limited the scope of his inquiry.
I believe that there were legitimate reasons for the way in which the MWH contract evolved, which I could explain if you wish.
It is interesting that Mr Domm's services were not selected by competitive quotation.
Although he made serious allegations against MWH and council staff, his report seems to have been accepted by the current council without question or critical review.
Surely Cardno BTO had very considerable vested interest in recommending a completely new plant, designed by themselves, but they were contracted without competitive tendering.
Pigeonhole the report and move on?
No way forward
Memo to Jay Kuten: Good golly, Miss Molly, the Domm report offers no way forward, except to caution the existing councillors to make sure they don't make the same mistakes again.
Unfortunately, most of the those wanting to be re-elected aren't listening, or can't read.
My old mum used to say there are none so blind as those who do not want to see.
■ David Bennett is a candidate for the district council in this week's election.
I am saddened by the scrapping between council candidates in this letters page and elsewhere.
Do they not realise they will have to work together, with one vote each, when it comes to the crunch? That as mayor they may well have to smile and announce decisions made by council that they disagree with?
If you call me a ratepayer, or a taxpayer, you are reducing my citizenship to mere dollars, and offering me a cut-rate deal. What will you cut?
If the council sticks to mere service provision, cutting services to lower your rates bill, this town will die.
Whanganui has a lot going for it. People do move here because of the lifestyle, the amenities (paid for by those rates) and the low cost of living. We did.
Friends of ours are moving here in a month to escape the insanity of Auckland. Please don't let them down.
Still too dear
The councillors who voted for the $41 million Cardno plant are still trying to perpetuate the myth that the old MWH-designed plant failed because it was badly designed.
If this was the case, why did mediation between the parties fail, and why did council accept a no-blame settlement, kept confidential?
The "failure" occurred because of an unsanctioned high-risk attempt to run the plant with few aerators and microbes, with disastrous consequences.
Mark Hughes said (November 12, 2012): "Microbe dosing could mean only four or five aerators would be needed in future." This was preceded by the reduction in the number of aerators from 23 to seven and from meeting consents to consent failure. This bio-augmentation was obviously the intention for some time.
In October 2015, there was sufficient doubt to ask if the Cardno scheme was the best for Whanganui. No proper investigation was undertaken and this question was never answered.
Council's website only has reports favourable to the "party line". Where is the MWH alternative proposal costing $12.2 million and the Beca review that did not say it would not work?
Experts they love to quote made such mistakes that the Cardno scheme has doubled in cost, and Beca's Humphrey Archer got his calculations of aeration requirements and sludge volumes wrong, as proven by the fact that the plant worked when properly aerated and sludge now in the settlement pond is well short of his estimates.
Fabiana Tesselle, the Aecom reviewer, has said: "the Cardno scheme is not the best scheme going ahead" and the Ministry of Health has also expressed concerns.
These councillors claim that they can make rates manageable. This hasn't happened over the past three years, so how can we accept their word that they can do that with this huge additional burden?
The only way rates can be made manageable for industry and ratepayers is to build a cheaper plant.
Former city wastewater engineer