Postcards from Taumata Island: GWRC under fire at Taumata Island, the NZTA PR Department moves on Wairarapa transport, a visit to Wellington

Trouble in paradise with our neighbour trespassing the Greater Wellington City Council from his property, which as I have written about before, contains the Taumata (Gretel) Lagoon. This incredibly special wetland hosts many endangered and rare birds as well as native bush.

Carterton arms dealer and conservationist Neil Hayes has placed a trespass notice on the Greater Wellington Regional Council, who he said had abandoned a major trapping programme on his land.

Hayes, who was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for his conservation work breeding endangered Brown Teal, reported that GWRC’s trapping efforts around his property had been stopped completely. He said he now wanted the Council off his property for good.

Hayes hits back at GWRC

Apparently, in a fit of cost-cutting, the GWRC has decided it will no longer carry out trapping in the reserve. This policy has already had devastating consequences.

The news that trapping had ceased on Hayes’ land, echoed another story, published in April, where GWRC paused almost all predator controls due to covid-19 concerns – this was closely followed by the tragedy at Pukaha in May, where six kiwis were found killed by mustelids [likely ferrets], whose numbers had spiked over the period of lax trapping.

Frankly, it is not good enough. Farmers are already under fire across the country for perceived environmental crimes and the government continues with platitudes about investing in wetlands and environmental work. Yet, when it comes down to it, GWRC has made the completely bizarre decision to abandon trapping work it seems.

With many dyed in the wool Green Councillors on the GWRC, you would expect better. You’d also expect the local Carterton Council to protest this, but, as I am fast learning, they are incredibly absent when it comes to local issues, leaving the CEO to write barbed responses to resident complaints and a mayor that occasionally writes in the local newspaper.

A sad lack of spine then by local bodies?

Last time I wrote about the appalling safety issues surrounding State Highway 2 from Featherston to Masterton, that has seen an increasing number of severe accidents and fatalities. Councils’ in the area remained mostly silent, handing off responsibility to the NZTA, who in turn, made some vague statements about not promising much, ever, and brushed it off.

Well, in the last week a rocket appears to have landed with the NZTA suddenly recognising it as an issue.

A roundabout for the Norfolk Rd-State Highway 2 intersection has finally been given the green light by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

NZTA on Friday confirmed the roundabout was being designed, and also a series of roadside and median barriers would be erected from Waingawa to Clareville.

Speed limits across the entire region would also be investigated.

The announcement comes after years of crashes on Wairarapa’s busiest state highway, and countless petitions and calls for change, all lodged in support of a major road safety intervention by NZTA.

Action promised on SH2 – at last!

But it appears this is a PR move on the NZTA’s part, who has promised nothing, set no dates, and agreed no actions. It is an empty press release that again, local Councils’ should have been outraged by, but, were muted in their responses.

Here is a tip Mayor Greg, “hope”, is not a strategy.

And it’s urgent, because after that empty news from the NZTA, tragedy struck, again, this week.

Masterton resident Helga Houlahan, an Austrian-born woman in her 80s, has died after being struck by a vehicle outside her home as she was crossing High St [State Highway 2] at about 7.13pm on Sunday night.

Tragedy on High St

At this point, Councils should be on the warpath and the local general election candidates out with pitchforks. But both are missing in action. It is most surprising and seriously concerning when local elected representatives are nowhere to be found.

Speaking of roads, I travelled this week over to Wellington City for a handful of coffee meetings and catch-ups. The city certainly does not seem to have the heartbeat that it did, with noticeably fewer numbers of people in the CBD on what was a rare beautiful day.

WREDA has been under fire, as it should be, for the post COVID response, with more of its usual decidedly average strategy. In an excellent opinion piece that I encourage you to read, Lindsay Shelton at Wellington Scoop provides some analysis and asks pertinent questions.

Wellington’s regional economic agency has been spending a lot of its post-lockdown energy promoting restaurants. And more recently highlighting the number of tickets sold for three events. But strangely left out of its promotions are some of the city’s most important and popular cultural activities.

What they’re not telling us about what’s on in Wellington

As per usual, the Council was nowhere to be found on this and other significant issues, including Shelly Bay, which was the topic of a long-form investigation piece by Nicky Hager this week.

Any time I am asked whether we have corruption in New Zealand, I say we are very lucky. We live in a country where we will never be pulled over by a police officer or taken aside by an immigration officer and expected to give them a bribe. But our luck in living here can make us complacent about the kinds of compromised and non-transparent processes that we do have.

The classic area where this occurs is local government (e.g. city councils) which has the dangerous combination of not many people watching closely what goes on but decisions worth massive sums of money to contractors, property developers and others.

The long, sorry saga of Shelly Bay

It is a damning indictment on the Wellington City Council, Hager alleges they pandered to the developer by ignoring the no-sale vote, bent the rules to suit, tried to stop community input, and were potentially misinformed.

As I have said before, it is time that the CEO, the management team, politically placed, and politically active senior-staff members in the WCC were removed. This culture appears persistent and the cancer probably so deep now that only a good cleanout can remove it. The Mayor and Councillors themselves seem powerless to make good change for the city, and it looks very much like they have been captured by the machine or rendered ineffective as a result of its Machiavellian ways.

A week where I am left feeling that the city, our region, my community, and neighbourhoods deserve far, far better than what we are receiving from local bodies and associated politicians.

Stay warm.

One thought on “Postcards from Taumata Island: GWRC under fire at Taumata Island, the NZTA PR Department moves on Wairarapa transport, a visit to Wellington

  1. Interesting (and perceptive) comment about corruption.

    There are now three English words beginning with “c” which are known all across the globe.

    Coronavirus, chocolate, and. . . . corruption.


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