Editorials 22 March 2010

The Herald focuses on the environment in Auckland:

Stormwater pipes and sewers, many of them old and not sufficiently separated, overflowed 2500 times in 2008, fouling beaches and leaving them unsuitable for swimming. Aucklanders have been hearing about this disgrace for a lifetime, and paying for it to be fixed for almost as long. Yet progress seems not to be keeping pace with population growth.

For all that, this ARC report, the council’s third since 1999, suggests coastal water is cleaner than it used to be, beaches are usually safe for swimming and streams, though still polluted, are not as bad as before. While car use is rising, so is patronage of public transport. And though we have become fairly diligent at separating household rubbish for recycling, the amount sent to landfills is growing faster than the population.

The Dominion Post calls for more transparency in spending:

Today The Dominion Post reveals that funding for a $3 million taxpayer-funded project to turn domestic Maori businesses into export earners was abruptly suspended last November by Te Puni Kokiri because of concerns about the way public money was being spent.

Among the issues of specific concern to the Maori Development Ministry were: perceived conflicts of interest, value for money and contract compliance.

Documents obtained by the paper under the Official Information Act show the ministry was right to act as it did. But they do not explain why TPK signed off in the first place on a project that its chief executive Leith Comer now concedes was loose and wishy washy.

She is on the right track. Private organisations in receipt of public money have an obligation to account for the way it is spent. Government organisations dishing out public money have an obligation to put proper controls and benchmarks in place. Auditor-General Lyn Provost should be asked to conduct a thorough inquiry into both Tekau Plus’s use of the money and Te Puni Kokiri’s stewardship of it.

I like what some US states have done – every single payment is published on the Internet.

The Press looks at local transport:

The shows welcome determination in sticking to its plans to build the new bus exchange under ground.

Christchurch will benefit in the long and short term, even if the NZ Transport Agency regards the plan as not benefiting the nation.

The agency has to live within tight budgetary margins and contribute to projects throughout New Zealand, so it is bound to take a conservative view of the exchange. That is especially the case when the undergrounding is expensive, costing $212 million more than the above-ground option. Also, the Christchurch bus system could operate with the cheaper facility.

But the city council is right to take a longer-term view, and one that will give the city the safest and most efficient exchange with the maximum potential.

Undergrounding would do that. It would mean passengers would not have to negotiate entering and exiting vehicles and more buses could be accommodated. Also, the area above could be turned into a park – in the meantime.

Underground, overground, wombling free, the Wombles of Wimbledown Common are we.

Sorry that song just stuck in my head as I read the editorial on overground vs underground.

The ODT looks at water pollution:

Some assurance can be taken by the public from the latest survey of the efforts by dairy farmers to comply with both the and the 2003 Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, but the results also show there is still a great deal to be done.

Indeed, the level of non-compliance with effluent discharge consents is still a disgrace, although the situation has improved in Otago – and not before time. …

Public anger against dairy farmers who continue to flout the requirements – along with the damage being done to New Zealand’s carefully cultivated, if misleading, “clean, green” publicity – has grown to the stage where now politicians at cabinet level are taking an interest.

Claims by farmers’ organisations that “most [dairy] farmers” care about the impact their businesses have on the environment simply do not stand up to scrutiny if the survey statistics for the 2008-09 season are to be believed.

On a scale, only 60% of dairy farms are complying with resource consents and regional plans in the discharge of their dairy effluent, although the figures for Otago and Southland farmers, at 75% and 69% respectively, are above average.

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