Waiheke, in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, boasts glass-fronted multi-million-dollar mansions, sprawling Tuscan-style restaurants, and vineyards climbing up its scorched hills.
This month, publicly-owned company To Tatou Vai picked up the $8500 to $10,000 tab to send its chief executive Brent Manning on a week-long company directors’ course on Waiheke.
This may be good professional development: it sends a clear signal that when Manning finishes up as chief executive in March, Cook Islands Investment Corporation may recommend him for a position on To Tatou Vai’s board.
And well they might: with his background in New Zealand local government, industry group Water NZ, and this year on To Tatou Vai, he has become the region’s pre-eminent water treatment expert and would bring unmatched technical knowledge to the water authority’s board.
The trouble, yet again, is the optics.
When Manning was publicly consulting the community on how to disinfect the islands’ new tapwater supply, he was already quietly seeking a supplier of chlorine. Bad look.
And now, when families around Rarotonga are complaining of having their water cut off for up to a week at a time to allow the new water pipes to be connected, he’s off on Waiheke enjoying a training course with dinner at the island’s finer restaurants.
Rarotonga’s water may be cut off, but Waiheke’s wine always keeps flowing.
Perhaps a miracle worker who can turn water into wine is just what trouble-plagued To Tatou Vai needs.