Ecological restoration of wetlands is highly specialised work requiring expert knowledge and skills. The WRT neither has such knowledge nor does it have the ability and manpower to carry out the work.
Waiheke Resources Trust was previously called Waste Resources Trust. It was established by local resident John Stansfield, partner of hard left Green Party list MP Denise Roche, to oversee his business as the island’s so-called community recycling and waste contractor. Stansfield’s latest lark is lecturing at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) on how to use taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money to promote political causes through non-governmental organisations.
Ecological restoration on Council owned land on Waiheke has previously been undertaken by companies with proven ability in the field and a tangibly good track record. Auckland Council itself lacks the internal expertise to implement such specialised work. Waiheke Resources Trust plans to use this huge grant of ratepayers’ funds to pay themselves and then use volunteers at community planting days and host corporate volunteers to do the real work. No ‘living wage’ there! In good Green fashion, they’ll also be doing their own assessment. No doubt they’ll give themselves a huge tick for the job while the ratepayer is left with the long term implications of an amateur’s job.
Once ratepayer money gets in the hands of ‘Trusts’ there is no further accountability for the money nor transparency about how the money is spent. That is how corruption in local politics is allowed to flourish. This Waiheke Local Board is already known for its cronyism and nepotism. Add corruption to the list.
The broader question that arises is why Council has permitted ratepayers' money to be used in this way. In the past, Local Boards were allocated funding for tasks which were then performed by independent qualified contractors employed by Council. This allows politicians to distance themselves from potential allegations of cronyism and corruption.
This seems to have changed with Brown’s second term as Mayor. By permitting Local Boards to favour their own local groups and mates in so-called ‘community/Council partnerships’, Council has opened itself to similar allegations of corruption with ratepayers paying to mop up the mess if anything goes wrong.
If this behaviour were to be repeated around the country then local government would become (if it isn’t already), a by-word for corrupt practices.
The first priority of a new Mayor should be to stamp out suspect Council practices like the one outlined here. Playing party politics with large sums of ratepayers' money and entering into agreements with no accountability or transparency can only bring Auckland Council into disrepute.
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