Questions about the independence of Robert Domm to head the inquiry into the failure of Whanganui's wastewater treatment plant have been dismissed by the district council's chief executive.

Mr Domm's name was put in front of the council by CEO Kym Fell soon after council had decided an independent inquiry was needed.

Mr Fell also disclosed to councillors that during his time as director corporate for Regional Facilities Auckland, Mr Domm was chief executive of that of that organisation.

"This is how I know Mr Domm ... on a purely professional basis," he said.


A handful of letter writers to Chronicle have highlighted this relationship, with one suggesting that Mr Domm's appointment "undermined his (Mr Fell's) credibility".

But Mr Fell said he had no concerns about that professional connection.

"It surprises me to see a number of people believe the appointment of Robert Domm is not considered independent enough to review the failed waste water treatment plant.

"I have over 1500 corporate connections on LinkedIn. I could have selected any one of these connections. However, I know that with Mr Domm comes honesty, integrity and credibility."

He said that relationship was fully disclosed to councillors "in writing before I proceeded to appoint Mr Domm and councillors felt that this was an appropriate appointment".

"To be very clear, as the recently appointed chief executive, I have absolutely no connection or association with the failed wastewater treatment plant. The plant failed many years prior to my appointment.

"The facts need to be presented so that the community and council can move forward. If council failed in anyway, then I expect nothing but full transparency and accountability," Mr Fell told the Chronicle.

Mr Domm is an Australian with a CV that includes at least 15 years as a chief executive in the public sector and about half that time leading local authorities on both sides of the Tasman.

The original treatment plant was commissioned in 2007 but shut down just five years later. The council is now faced with rebuilding the plant, and that could cost more than $41 million.

Mr Domm runs his own property and management business in Sydney. He holds a master's degree in business administration, a master's degree in labour law and relations, a bachelor of laws, a bachelor of arts degree, and a graduate diploma of legal practice.