TMV legal battle will cost taxpayer: Maoate

Friday November 30, 2018 Written by Published in Politics

Mounting water project costs and the prospect of expensive, lengthy legal action against a major Chinese company, reinforces the widespread belief that government’s culture of subterfuge – ongoing cover-ups and lack of transparency, will in turn punish the taxpayers of this country for years, says Democratic Party Opposition leader Terepai Maoate.

 

He says that from the outset Te Mato Vai project was doomed to have serious flaws, because no-one, in particular Finance minister Mark Brown and former ICI minister Teariki Heather, was listening to the experts.

“The government’s arrogance in refusing to admit mistakes, repeatedly trying to cover up mistake after mistake with Te Mato Vai project, allowing inferior materials to be used, is shameful and has become a long-term financial burden on our people.”

Maoate says since 2014, experts have been sounding alarm bells over the standard of construction, unsuitable materials used by contractors China Civil Engineering and Contracting Company, and the pipes failing pressure tests.

He says government ignored the advice given by experts like former material quality specialist John Batty, whose job was to oversee quality assurance on pipe laying by CCECC. Batty was employed by Kew Consultants who were contracted to oversee the entire project, but ended up being terminated themselves before completion.

“John Batty warned back in 2014 that things weren’t right. No-one wanted to listen, in fact what happened was Kew Consultants were told by government officials to get rid of Batty because he was a troublemaker,” says Maoate.

“He wasn’t, he was trying to save our country from a bad deal. I am aware that another local expert, Chris Holford, went to see Mark Brown and told him that expensive mistakes were being made, he was told he didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Had government listened to Chris and John’s warnings, undoubtedly we wouldn’t be paying an extra $30 million for this project. This is the price of arrogance,” says Maoate.

The government recently admitted that there had been a budget blowout for the project that was originally estimated would cost $60 million. It has now ballooned to $90 million and is likely to increase even more, Maoate says.

He also disclosed that during Select Committee hearings on Te Mato Vai project, the committee demanded to see all contracts, sub-contracts and financial details, but never got to see these critical documents.

Maoate says Financial secretary Garth Henderson’s revelation that the government is preparing to take on CCECC, a huge international company, “should make Cook Islanders very, very concerned.”

“This is like a mouse trying to take on a dragon in the ring.”

Maoate says while the wrong pipes were being laid incorrectly, all joint work flawed, pipes popping and failing pressure tests, Mark Brown has been saying everything is “just fine”.

Brown was reported last month as saying the Chinese would pay for any poor workmanship arising from stage one of the Te Mato Vai (TMV) project. However, it is now clear this was inaccurate all along, says Maoate.

“Now it seems quite likely that there’s going to be a very expensive and lengthy legal battle with CCECC, which is in effect, taking on China.

“This government is now planning to sue a super-wealthy company that’s backed by China. This government can say goodbye to the $10 million gift that China has apparently promised the Cook Islands, because that will be swallowed up in legal fees.”

The Democratic Party believes that Te Mato Vai project disintegrated to the stage where NZ civil engineers had to come and rescue it and “the government has to shoulder the entire blame for this mess.”

            - Release/Democratic Party

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