Call for 'transparency' on Carterton multi-million dollar wastewater project

8:46 pm on 6 April 2021

A Carterton council election candidate has called for more light on the district's major project - a multi-million dollar wastewater treatment plant estimated to cost $10 million.

Mike Osborne.

Mike Osborne. Photo: Wairarapa Times Age / Marcus Anselm via LDR

Mike Osborne, one of three runners in this month's by-election, will address Carterton District Council's (CDC) infrastructure committee tomorrow.

He said he wanted more scrutiny of the sewage works scheme. It has been underway at the town's south end for more than two years.

Committee reports did not highlight a plan, he said.

"To be blunt, what I see are little bloody puff pieces with photos of where we're at. But that's not transparency or anything like a proper project plan."

He said he wanted to understand more about the governance structure.

"There should be seeing the minutes of the meetings as a part of as part of normal transparency.

"And also, given that this project is by far the biggest capital project council's undertaken for a long time, it's just laden with risk.

"And ratepayers should be kept in the loop of what's going on."

Osborne is in a race with Dale Williams and Grant Pittams for the seat vacated by Steffen Bertram.

Pittams said he felt the release of "key information" would help ward against accusations of a lack of transparency.

"If I was sitting on governance, I would expect to see information on progress to date, budgets, and risks, and how they are being managed.

"And I think the council should consider pushing on publishing on a regular basis."

He said that given the size of the project for a small council, there "needs to be some proper monitoring".

"I think that allows the basis for the council to be more transparent."

Carterton by-election candidates Dale Williams, left, Mike Osborne, and Grant Pittams.

Carterton by-election candidates Dale Williams, left, Mike Osborne, and Grant Pittams. Photo: Wairarapa Times Age / Bevan Wills via LDR

Williams, the former Ōtorohanga mayor, said there had been "quite a bit of speculation" in Carterton about the project.

He said there had been "a lack of activity there for a little while" at the site.

Williams said that he had received assurances from Carterton Mayor Greg Lang that the project was operating to its scope.

"A project of this scale, and with a 50-year lifespan, the emphasis has to be on getting the job done as quickly and as efficiently as possible so that we can start reaping the benefits of investment.

"It's the biggest project that the council's got underway at this point in time. So we've all got a vested interest in the project being delivered on time and within budget."

"I think the council would be would do well to make it as transparent as possible to take out some of the concern, nervousness, and speculation, out of the current environment."

The Build New Zealand Now website, developed by Wellington agency Haines Attract in partnership with the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, management consultants Utility, catalogues major engineering works.

It estimated the project budget at $10m.

Previous council statements projected a $6m budget.

Carterton wastewater treatment plant.

Work continues at Carterton's wastewater treatment plant. Photo: Supplied / Carterton District Council

CDC chief executive Jane Davis said the council would be fronting up with more information coming on the project's status soon.

"In terms of project time delays and budgets, we are aware that there are a few people in Carterton who are seeking information on these matters, and we will be releasing information shortly on where the project is up to."

Davis said that the council would not be changing its oversight approach "using a senior staff/elected member governance group to oversee the project and its management, and holding those meetings in confidence".

"We will continue to release public updates on the project publicly through our usual channels, as well as reporting to the council and committee."

The committee will meet on Wednesday, 7 April at 8.30am.

The candidates will debate the project and other issues at Carterton Events Centre at 5.30pm on 13 April.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs