HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 446 : 11 February 2009

Government hangs Ruaau out to dry

The Ruaau resident’s group set up recently to look into solutions to Ruaau’s water problem, has hit a brick wall.
After giving the group every encouragement over the last eight weeks and assuring it funding was available, government representatives have now admitted there are no funds available to solve the Ruaau water problem.
For the Group members who in the last eight weeks have worked so hard, in their own time, unpaid, it’s like a slap in the face. It has greatly angered the members of the group and government ought to hang its head in shame.
Shame, because Ruaau, a highly populated area, a major centre for tourism and once a major agricultural area, has been reduced to “third world” status as residents walk the back roads with buckets to fill their water tanks, fill their bath tubs with water and generally suffer the unpleasant indignities associated with having no water.
With government having failed in its social responsibility to provide Ruaau with clean water, residents have been forced to pay to have water trucked in. Why doesn’t government meet their bills for this? Either fix the problem or help the residents financially.
Local MP William Heather, Smiley, was elected in 2006 general election when he campaigned on one issue only and that was to fix the water problem in Ruaau. After three years as the local MP, Heather has not achieved what the constituents put him in parliament to accomplish. Residents are now becoming openly critical of Heather and the sad thing is it is his colleagues in the Cabinet who have left him high and dry for the slaughter. Heather is quickly becoming the Party’s “sacrificial lamb.” No doubt he’ll be the first of a number as other Demo MPs fail to deliver on their election promises. Tupapa (roads) and Matavera (culvert) come to mind.
Ruaau’s water problem goes back 40 years according to the locals. Indeed, Ruaau MPs have not enjoyed any longevity of office in recent times. Maria Heather was followed by Geoffrey Heather, Vaine Wichman now William Heather.
Member of the Ruaua Group, Ngamau Wichman told the Herald she first drew Heather’s attention to the problem at her house on the back road back in July 2008. Although connected to the mains, her home had no water. The Ministry of Works told her it was the dry season and the lack of water was the norm. Other residents told her they had put in water tanks at their own cost. However, lack of pressure meant they had to have their water trucked in at their own cost to fill their tanks.
Wichman said a resident’s group was formed to seek a solution. Their research revealed an ABD report in 2000 recommended the rehabilitation of the water reservoir at Akaoa. When the group discussed this with the Ministry for Planning and Infrastructure (MPI) they were informed it was too expensive and to consider rain water harvesting and boring holes for underground water.
The group asked the MPI to research rehabilitating the reservoir at Akaoa. MPI suggested the group consider three options which were, rain water harvesting, boring holes and rehabilitation of the reservoir.
MPI suggested the resident’s group draw up Terms of Reference (TOR) for a project to look into the various options to solve the problem. Minister Vavia’s office was to draft the TOR but had no time to do it. The group was told not to worry about funding for the project because MPI had $1 million to commit to Ruaau. This advice from MPI was also mentioned by Heather to the group. However the group decided to do a due diligence first.
Speaking to the Herald on Tuesday evening, Wichman said it was eight weeks ago that the group was advised by Ratu Mato of the DPM’s Office to prepare a project proposal to submit to the Chinese for consideration for a grant. (Not a loan).
At the recent NSDP Summit at the Crown Beach Resort, the DPM mentioned government had a grant from the Chinese. Sholan Ivaiti mentioned it was for 80 million Chinese currency which was about NZ$20 million.
Wichman said the group asked for access to a grant.
On a Friday two weeks ago said Wichman the group took the TOR to Planning and Infrastructure Minister Hon Tangata Vavia’s office. She said on the next Friday following this, Ministry Head Taukea Raui told the group the Minister was happy with the TOR but that he needed a work plan to attach to it.
The group put a work plan together and it was hand delivered to Vavia’s office last Monday so it could be discussed at Cabinet on Tuesday. On that Monday a copy was also delivered to the DPM’s office and to Tere Taio to pass on to William Heather.
Also last Friday, Ratu Mato of the DPM’s office informed the group the funds requested had not been appropriated so it had to be included in the next Budget. Ratu informed the group Ruaau had been given priority in the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) but the funds needed to be appropriated.
On Tuesday the group was informed by Vavia’s office that Ruaua had been discussed at Cabinet and that the figure of $1 million had been raised. Wichman said Heather did not attend Cabinet as he was in a meeting with the group at the time. Heather had forgotten Cabinet was meeting.
Wichman said the group had done much research and work over the last eight weeks. It had prepared a TOR and did a work plan for a proposed project as asked. This was all work which should have been done by the paid public servants employed in the Minister’s office and also his Ministry. They did nothing said Wichman. Wichman said the group submitted to the Ministry a claim for payment for their time based on fair consultancy rates but it now appeared no payment will be forthcoming from the Ministry.
Wichman said the group wants to know if the funds are really there. She said government can commit $5.5 million to purchase a fuel farm but cannot find the $60,000 to do a due diligence for the Ruaau water project to seek the best long term solution.
Wichman said the group is unhappy with the lack of response from Minister Vavia’s office. She claims that office led them along knowing full well that no funds would be available.
Wichman said government’s plan is to give 150 water tanks and pumps to those who have no water.
She said the group has been informed that when the new water reticulation pipe is laid by July from Betela to Nikao, Ruaau residents will notice an improved supply of water. Wichman is skeptical and says there is no guarantee there will be any significant pressure in the pipes to push water to the homes. She also questions the effectiveness in the dry season.
Wichman said during the rainy season it is imperative water be stored for the dry season. She said when the Akaoa reservoir was in use, there were no problems with water. The reservoir closed down in 1987.

Herald Issue 439 11 February
- ‘I wanted to finish 3 years ago’ - Sam Pera Jnr?
- Government hangs Ruaau out to dry
- Flies reach epidemic level in Arorangi
- Economic Summits – Talking the Talk or Walking the Talk
- Parliament: Deregistration, Fuel farm and OIA amendment

Herald Issue 445 04 February
- The third political party: Why?
- Christmas message
- New Party will offer decisive leadership
- 2008 Kokonati Oscars of the year !
- Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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