Te Mato Vai Project Grievance. Authored by: Andy Kirkwood, Justine Flanagan for Te Vai Ora Maori. [www.islandbooth.com/comm/210323-mfem-tmv-grievance.html].
Contact: [firstName] @ islandbooth.com.
Masthead Kata, 8 Dec 2020, Cook Islands News. A request under the Official Information Act led to the release of a report on Rarotonga’s stream ecology. The ecology report was released in Dec 2020, two months after dosing with polyaluminum chloride had commenced. The method of operation includes the disposal of water treatment residuals to natural waterways.
Published 23 Mar 2021. Updated 4 Feb 2022.
This grievance has been prepared by community lobby group Te Vai Ora Maori (TVOM), and concerns the Te Mato Vai Project to upgrade Rarotonga’s public water supply treatment system and distribution network (2014–).
The proposed method of operation is unlawful. Under the Public Health Act 2004, water treatment residuals are hazardous waste and discharge to waterways is prohibited.
Regulations have been circumvented. Development activity permits have not been obtained for commissioning processes, the PACl-trial, or ongoing operation. Protections afforded to the public by the Environment Act 2003 have not been enforced.
Landowner participation has been used as a proxy for public consensus. The informal construct of ‘landowner consent’ has been used in place of the formal development permit(s). Intake landowner access negotiations have been used to avoid public consultation. Officials have sought to transfer public service obligations to the judiciary.
Public participation in the project development process has been frustrated. Consultation processes have not been genuine. Infrastructure has been constructed without sufficient consideration for the cultural and environmental impacts of operation, and presuming public consent for the method. Formal mechanisms for initiating dialogue including a public petition, and an investigation by the Ombudsman have been subject to political interference.
Objections have been clearly articulated, using the appropriate mechanisms, and in a timely manner. As information has been disclosed, Te Vai Ora Maori has endeavoured to initiate dialogue with officials. These efforts have been refuted and concerns discredited.
Project Managers GHD have used selective referencing to influence the outcome of regulatory application processes; and to mislead public perception of the impacts of operation.
Compromised governance has led to a lack of transparency and accountability. In pursuit of an improved water supply system, steering group members have paid insufficient regard to development policy. Checks-and-balances have been by-passed to expedite infrastructure construction.
Te Vai Ora Maori does not challenge the goal of improving Rarotonga’s public water supply system.
However, infrastructure projects must also observe the law of the country, and development activities are bound by regulatory process. This ensures that the chosen solution is culturally-appropriate and environmentally responsible.
Classification/subjects: Te Mato Vai Project, development project governance, grievance resolution, water resource management, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, South Pacific, environmental impact assessment, EIA, Environmental Social Safeguards Framework.
Public Health Act 2004. PacLII. Material including sludge or other by products from water treatment plants is ‘Hazardous waste’. Section 54(2)(d) “prohibits hazardous waste to be directly or indirectly deposited or discharged, or to seep, into a waterway”.