So, the Government has walked away from legal claims against the Te Mato Vai contractor China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (“CCECC”) for substandard work.
What was not mentioned in the CI News article was that
the Government was made well aware in October 2014 that the work was
substandard. Indeed it featured on the front page of CI News on 29 October
The whistle blower was one John Batty who was a
contractor on the project team. Stop work orders were given, but eventually,
the CCECC pressured the Government to sideline Batty, and the then prime
minister, Henry Puna assured Parliament and the nation that all was well and
that the work was of the “highest standard”. This was untrue as subsequent
events played out. Four years and millions of dollars later, the Opus report
comes out confirming what Batty had told everyone four years before. The CCECC
work was rubbish and 17 kilometres of roads needed to be dug up again and the
pipes replaced. New Zealand taxpayers then ponied up another $11.2 million to
remediate the CCECC’s deficient work which was not per contractual specs.
And here is the ultimate irony. Landholdings won the
contract to replace the pipes. Who was to head that project you may ask? John
Batty! Yes, the same John Batty who had warned the Government about the issues
in 2014 and who was given the bum’s rush by the Government.
The object of Te Mato Vai was to supply of potable
water to Rarotonga households. Here we are eight years later having blown $100
million and we still do not have potable water. A disgraceful waste of New
Zealand and Cook Islands taxpayer money and I hope the New Zealand High
Commissioner reads this and thinks twice about committing hardworking New
Zealanders taxes to wasteful and incompetently managed projects here. Better to
spend it in South Auckland, Porirua or Aranui.
I have been advised that all the construction and
handover work was completed many months ago and the water can now be
chlorinated if the go ahead is given by the Prime Minister. My question to him,
is when can we expect to have potable water running from our home taps, which
after all, was the Raison d'être of the project?
The management of the project and money flushed down
the toilet is farce bordering on tragedy. And no one has been held to account
for the cost blow outs, failure to manage the contract competently or to
provide households with potable water.