It could be a case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing or a classic example of local body obfuscation but either way it isn't making it easy for one player to get involved in the independent inquiry into the failure of the Whanganui wastewater treatment plant.

Former mayor Michael Laws has been asked to assist by inquiry head Robert Domm but said he had been stonewalled by council officers when he asked for information.

Last Friday he received a set of detailed questions from Mr Domm which gave him two weeks - or 10 working days - to reply.

Mr Laws said he asked council for all the council papers of that time under the Official Information Act.


"The council's response is that they don't have to reply until 20 working days (a month) has elapsed. And no mention is made of my reasons for urgency to answer their questions."

He said all the council papers, minutes and reports of that time have been removed from the council website.

"Am I right in thinking they don't really want an independent inquiry and that Mr Domm has already reached his conclusions? Or is this cock-up rather than conspiracy with the left hand and the right hand off visiting different relatives?" he said.

Mr Laws was Whanganui's mayor from 2004-2010 and opened the Airport Rd plant in September 2007.

He said here were problems almost from the "first instant".

"It was closed down completely in 2013 and Whanganui's raw sewage is still pumped off shore. There was a secret settlement with the designer engineers MWH (but) their papers are still publicly withheld.

"As mayor from 2004 to 2010, I oversaw most of the period under review (2003-13) and have flagged my intention to provide every recollection available to me," Mr Laws said.

A council spokesperson said a council response to Mr Laws acknowledged his request for urgency "and followed this with the standard information that is provided to people who make requests under the Act".

She said the council was obliged to respond as soon as is reasonably practicable, and in no case more than 20 working days from the day on which the request is received.

"However, the response did not say it would take 20 working days to provide the information Mr Laws requested," she said.

She said when council's new website was developed it was decided to publish minutes for meetings only from the beginning of the 2013-2016 council term.

"The work involved transferring all documents from the old website to the new one would have been extremely time-consuming so it was decided to publish meeting minutes from the current council term only, unless there was demand for previous minutes," she said.

She said there had been few requests for previous minutes until recently when people have asked for minutes relating to the wastewater treatment plant. Earlier minutes are available on request from the governance team as stated on the website.