Questions answered

Re: "Council queries" by G Fisher (Letters, September 16):

Leadership in local government includes the setting and regular reporting on key standards and targets, ie, accountability, plus keeping focus on key objectives for growth, liveability and services within affordable limits.

Inefficiencies include inappropriate staffing leading to poor or slow outcomes, too many layers in the reporting structure, work that has little effect on key objectives, meetings with low outcomes and over-reliance on consultants rather than building internal capability.

Whanganui District Council's chief executive is currently realigning the council structure and staffing. Key objectives of the organisation need to be set and agreed by councillors and expenditure prioritised based on those key objectives.


Community expectations include effective communication of issues affecting it, quality decision-making by councillors and fair rate increases.

Despite the flood contributing 2 per cent of the 5 per cent rates increases, plus the new wastewater plant construction, rate increases can be held at 3 per cent with focus as above.

We delayed construction of the new plant in a last-ditch effort to negotiate a service contract with Talleys, despite the new plant being our only viable option and Talleys having sufficient time to consider theirs.

But Talleys haven't taken any steps to build their own plant nor will they sign a service agreement.

Others believe there is a much cheaper plant solution to manage all our waste but all evidence from highly-respected wastewater specialists refutes this. There is clearly no incentive for Talleys to build their own plant nor have us build one while their waste goes to sea at little cost.

Whanganui District Councillor

Helen Craig is standing for the mayoralty and council at the October local body elections.

Straight talk

With regard to Robert Domm's report into the failed wastewater treatment plant: Officers did not set out to deliberately misinform Whanganui district councillors, nor did they have the need to.

Council were advised it was a hybrid plant and what its cost advantages were.

They were also told that it was based on proven technology, as it was with aerated lagoon processes.

Neither they nor the consultants would build a treatment plant that they thought was "fatally flawed", as Mr Domm describes the design.

The peer reviewers accepted that the pond system best suited the needs of the city, that is: to deal with a network containing large amounts of stormwater and to provide for a large industrial load.

Risks they raised about the performance of the settlement pond and underestimates of the rate of sludge accumulation were addressed at the design stage.

The peer reviewers never questioned the aerated lagoon process, the key part of any design. The peer review was not deliberately truncated "because of awkward questions being asked". Officers and consultants considered they had raised all the questions about the design and that outstanding issues could be dealt with at the detailed design stage.

If there had been detailed discussions with council about the peer review comments, councillors would have accepted the engineering assurances that officers themselves were satisfied with. To suggest, as Mr Domm has done, that the plant would not have gone ahead had council been better informed is just fanciful.

As for the reasons the plant failed, this was solely because of the decision taken to try run the plant by the introduction of engineered microbes and just a few aerators, as the newspaper article of November 12, 2012 clearly states. Much less risky attempts to "make it work" would have been to maintain adequate aeration.

The real tragedy is that the plant never had a chance to work with the directional aerator design.

Arguments about whether it would or would not have worked are of no real point now. What is important is that a new council investigates a more affordable option and has an answer to the question the current council asked in October 2015 -- "Is the Cardno scheme the best for the city?"


Finish the job

May I, through your widespread paper, make a suggestion to those who designed and authorised the mess created by narrowing the carriageway on Heads Rd now "turn around" and think about putting in a cul-de-sac at the end of it and make a complete mess of it?