No apology over mud-tanks - Cull

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is refusing to apologise over the council's mud-tank failures as the South Dunedin Action Group calls for an infrastructure overhaul.

Mr Cull was responding to a call by Cr Hilary Calvert, who is being tipped as a likely mayoral candidate in this October's elections, to apologise to the people of South Dunedin.

"I don't think it's appropriate to apologise for the fact that both the South Dunedin community and I have been let down by staff assurances that maintenance had been carried out properly,'' he said.

This comes as the South Dunedin Action Group released a statement yesterday seeking an "urgent'' meeting with the council after meeting at Dunedin South MP Clare Curran's office.

The statement said "immediate actions'' were needed to ensure South Dunedin's infrastructure was maintained and up to a standard to protect the community against a flood event like that of last June.

"We are concerned that there are retailers and residents who are continuing to suffer financially and emotionally due to the distress suffered during the floods and the subsequent uncertainty about South Dunedin's future.

"We will work with the DCC in good faith, but we need the council to acknowledge our concerns and our expertise to reassure this community that South Dunedin is a vital part of Dunedin with a future.''

The group was "very disappointed'' the report released on Wednesday focused on mud-tanks and not the entire reticulation system, including the Musselburgh pumping station.

"It is our view that the extent of the flooding would not have occurred if the system had been operating to its designed capacity.

"We note there are no engineering or other practical initiatives to take the community forward,'' the statement said.

Cr Calvert slammed Mr Cull's response to the report, saying he should apologise to staff and others who had been complaining about a lack of maintenance for the mud-tanks in the aftermath of the flood.

"It's not good enough to blame the staff for his decision to tell everyone they were wrong last year.''

She said staff should be recognised for doing a "great job'' in addressing the issues exposed by the floods.

Mr Cull said he never blamed staff for his decision to tell anyone they were wrong about mud-tank maintenance.

"As I said [on Wednesday night], what I said was wrong was the contention that poorly maintained mud-tanks caused the flooding, and they didn't.

"What I have also acknowledged is that in good faith I quoted staff assurances that the maintenance had been carried out properly and then it turned out it hadn't been.

"I am certainly not the one who should apologise for that.''

Asked if the council had let South Dunedin down by failing to upgrade infrastructure, he said that in 2010 the council identified that in light of the likelihood of more frequent extreme weather events, the stormwater system was unlikely to provide the level of service expected since the system was built.

He believed there might be regret in the council for not sufficiently appreciating the degree of urgency of those predictions in 2010 about extreme rain events.

"We now know that even at optimum performance, the current infrastructure won't cope with such events.

"So clearly there is an urgent need to assess how the infrastructure can be improved to cope with the increased number and frequency predicted.''

This was further complicated by rising groundwater levels.

"So there are considerable challenges in identifying what best to do in South Dunedin and funding for those urgent investigative efforts is proposed in the draft annual plan [being consulted on now].''

Mud-tanks capture debris that washes off the road, allowing water to drain into the stormwater system.

Council communications and marketing manager Graham McKerracher said in a statement Mr Cull had already arranged to meet the South Dunedin Action Group and it was up to the group to confirm a time.

"A lot of work has been done around city infrastructure and, following council resolutions in November, more work is under way.

"This includes staff investigating and reporting back on a work programme to address the issues caused by rising groundwater levels in South Dunedin and other parts of the city.''

There work carried out so far included numerous reports made since 2010, including the report which detailed the council's mud-tank failures released this week.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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