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Maori consultation anger

A decision by Gisborne District Council to not adopt a recommendation from the wastewater management committee for public consultation has seriously affected the council’s relationship with Maori, the committee was told yesterday.

Iwi representatives on the committee criticised the council’s decision to not adopt the committee’s recommended option of consultation on wastewater options in the long-term plan and to replace it with one of their own.

Iwi representative Pene Brown said tangata whenua had entered the process in a spirit of goodwill and a pledge to act towards each other in utmost good faith.

“Tangata whenua feel that the council’s actions have seriously damaged the relationships around this table with the production and adoption of an option that was not promoted around the table.

“At this point that option is still not fixed and still requires further massaging.

“That fluidity will mean the cultural requests of tangata whenua will once again be slashed.

“The council’s actions are driving tangata whenua to contest the long-term plan outcomes and proposed consents that deal with wastewater management options.

“Our collaborative nature has been well and truly tested,” he said.

Referring to the committee’s terms of reference that included exploring feasible options for alternative use, he said tangata whenua needed to see some tangible evidence this was happening under the current consent conditions.

They believed that an independent review panel might be a way of bridging the void that existed between tangata whenua and the council.

Tangata whenua were concerned that the consultation process in the long-term plan would be a process of adoption and not an opportunity to participate as equals in the community.

“For tangata whenua our journey to end the ‘poo pipe’ has now become lost in a whole host of operational issues.

“This journey began with a genuine desire to meet the needs of the city and address important cultural issues for tangata whenua,” he said.

Wastewater committee ‘tipped on its head’Larry Foster said he expected committee chairman Bill Burdett to use his influence at the council meeting to argue against the decision to not adopt the committee’s recommendation.

Mr Burdett said the council had been given new details about financial affordability at its meeting. He realised there would be a backlash at this meeting, and suggested iwi should invite Mayor Meng Foon “on to the marae” to talk to them.

Iwi representative Ronald Nepe said he did not know what process the council had gone through to reach its decision.

The wastewater committee was put there to do a job and had done it quite well. Then it was tipped on its head.

Iwi compromised way back, not only on compliance but with the process for putting up the wastewater treatment plant completed in 2010.

This had come back as a cost issue but that was not related to tangata whenua.

Everything in the papers before the committee indicated it was the tangata whenua’s issue, but that was wrong.

“We are just worried that again when it comes to the crunch, the public perception is that it is ‘just those Maoris’. That has got to be cut out.”

It was a community decision based on what the committee had come up with.

It seemed that iwi had to fight all the time to get to a point agreed to in 2007, while 2020 was just around the corner and nothing had happened.

Referring to other projects listed in the plan, he asked, “where did these things come from?”

“How long have they been in the background? Are we being pushed out again by these other projects?”

LeRoy Pardoe said the concerning trend iwi saw here was a growing reluctance for them to take part in this process because this was “token consultation”. The council had said it had talked to iwi, ticked that box and would now do what it wanted anyway.

“We have come into it in good faith. We have long memories as to the concessions that have been made.”

There was a good feeling after the last committee meeting. Within 24 hours that was gone. The council decision did not remotely reflect what was agreed. At what point did this become tokenism?

“We don’t want any part of that.”

Mr Burdett said he could give an assurance that iwi were equally important in the committee.

Amber Dunn said she and Larry Foster sat at the council meeting and were devastated at what happened.

“We sat around this table as Treaty partners and believed we had come to a solution. We were as devastated as you are.”

Those councillors who voted against the council recommendation wanted to be true partners when they sat around the table, she said.

Mr Foster said there were other options for funding the wastewater treatment and disposal project. Government funds were available.

“It should not all come back to the ratepayers.”

The wastewater committee had recommended the adoption of a clarification stage at the existing biological trickling filter plant, solids removal, UV disinfection and a wetlands at a cost of $41 million. However, at a full council meeting on December 7, the council adopted a staff recommendation that deferred the wetland component and would cost $23 million. Yesterday, the wastewater committee was told phase one of the project would cause a rates increase of 4.2 percent from 2023. Completing the whole project in 10 years would mean a 7.6 percent rates increase.