Opening result of six years of healing

On the same table: Ian McLean, left, dines with Tamati Coffey on Monday at Lake Rotoiti.

In 2013, the Environment Court delivered a damning conclusion against the residents of Lake Rotoiti who were seeking a waste-water scheme in their area.

Judge John Smith was severe in his criticism of the local council, then known as the Rotorua Lakes Council.

Part of their criticism was read out this week by Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, who was not mayor the time of an action undertaken by the residents at Lake Rotoiti en route to Kawerau and local iwi Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Makino.

The judge denounced what appeared flawed evidence by the council – his language was stronger – and interestingly absolved any blame on the regional council at baulking over the need for a wastewater station in the area.

When iwi and residents in the area made overtures to the council and denied they were baldly told, “Go ahead, take us to court”.

Perched high on a gouged plateau overlooking the south-west end of Lake Rotoiti, several hundred metres from the general store sited back from the lake, the first stage of the treatment station was officially launch.

For, the cost of a tidge over $24million has been realised in an overall cost of around $35m.

Six years on from the judge’s savage denunciation of the RLC’s decision not to oblige the area, the station was opened and it seemed the healing of a deep-seated rift was almost complete.

On Monday in her speech, Steve Chadwick read out a relevant passage of the judge’s decision.

He had said, inter alia, “there appears to be a significant dysfunction between the council and the iwi residing within its district that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Six years later, a new mayor and the introduction around the table of a Te Arawa representatives, who have speaking but not voting rights, the wrongs of the past now appear righted.

It has been a pyrrhic victory certainly for local iwi. Their feelings have been assuaged by not only a court decision which ordered costs in their favour but the speed with which the wastewater station in their area has been constructed.

Led by Steve, who was the public front, the finance was raised through door knocking. But behind the scenes, too, local iwi had champions, which included the regional council.

Waving a metaphorical fist at the council those six years ago and earlier was, however, Ian McLean, a long since forgotten politician in the public psyche.

Ian was an associate Minister of Finance in the Muldoon government and one of the few in the so-called ‘colonel’s revolt’ against the pugnacious Prime Minister.

Now 83, Ian was fondly mentioned in despatches Monday.

And at the end of the speeches, at kai, from the back of the room where he dined, the old barnacle stridently morphed into a karakia.

He almost broke into a cadenza, for, normally softly spoken, his voice rent the air like an angry Greek god, for the day was heavily overcast with heavy pelts of rain. His organisation of the healing of the rift between the council was pivotal

He had been an MP in the area from the late 1970s and was a Muldoon confidante in his inner sanctum. His background as an economist and subsequent advocacy was acknowledged by speakers.

On Monday, he dined alongside Tamati Coffey, a new breed of politician. Over 40 years separates the pair in age, but it was clear mutual bon homie existed between the pair.

Ian McLean’s time is well advanced. Eventually he will yield to a new age. That age started on Monday, thanks almost entirely to his initiative behind the scenes.


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