John MacDonald: Wastewater plant compensation offer stinks

Christchurch's wastewater treatment plant caught fire in November last year. Photo: George Heard
Christchurch's wastewater treatment plant caught fire in November last year. Photo: George Heard
OPINION: I'm going to do a bit of a Sesame Street and say that today's comment is being brought to you by the letter C and the number 96.

C for Christchurch. C for city. C for council.

C also stands for contempt. Because that is what those "lucky enough" to qualify for the Christchurch City Council's support payments for people putting up with the smell from the burnt-out wastewater plant in Bromley will be feeling, after that pitiful announcement yesterday.

One headline I saw said the council was spending $1 million supporting the people in Bromley. Another said it was dishing out $200 one-off payments.

But here's the number that really matters: 96.

Because 208 days since the fire, the council's $200 equates to 96 cents a day.

This time next week it'll be 93c per day. By the start of September, when the job of removing the stuff that's causing all the smell should nearly be done, the daily rate for the council's one-off support payment will be down to 6c a day.

What an absolute embarrassment.

And I say that as a Christchurch ratepayer who thinks the council's decision yesterday has Scrooge written all over it.

A total of 96c a day to compensate for all the washing and drying of linen at the laundromat, 96c a day to help with the cost of constantly burning incense and candles to try and hide the smell, 96c a day to go towards all the doctors' visits, 96c a day to help deal with the mental anxiety we know the people in Bromley are dealing with.

The council would have been better to have done nothing, in my view. Because what it's come up with is just insulting.

Part of the problem is the city council people turning up to the community meeting a fortnight ago and the mayor, the council chief executive, other councillors and council staff all nodding their heads and obviously feeling they had to say the right things. Which, at the time, probably provide some comfort.

For example, reports I saw talked about one councillor saying they were looking at putting together a support package for residents that would be practical - and they talked about things like paying for doctors' visits, getting clothes laundered and providing vouchers for people to get out of the city for a bit.

So if I was someone in Bromley and I had been at the meeting and heard that, I would've been quite heartened by that.

But I can only imagine how I would have felt yesterday after all the warm fuzzy talk and all the head nodding and the mea culpas from the mayor at the meeting, finding out that I was going to be getting 96c compensation for every day I've put up with that stench since November last year.

And that every day it continues, the value of this one-off payment will diminish to the point that - in a few months - it's worth will be about 6c a day.

I would've been gutted. And I would've wished the councillors and the mayor and all the other council people had kept their mouths shut at that meeting and just listened because, as we see now, it was just all the usual lip service Christchurch has been getting from its city council.

And I say Christchurch, because this is not just a Bromley thing. Everybody is affected by this. But none more so than the 3000 households the city council is limiting its support package to.

Those 3000 households have every right to feel abandoned by Christchurch City Council.

This so-called support package is absolutely shameful. There is no other way to describe it.

-By John MacDonald, Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch



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