Is there a moral in the story of Christchurch City Council under-insurance? – It has the power of turning tentative good news, of steady earthquake recovery, into bad; but for who?

The city leadership has sharp scrutiny upon it, and a public verdict will be delivered in the October elections this year. In not showing they realise that reconstruction MUST prioritise the east of the city, for rebuilding community social weight there, no incumbent is secure. That includes all infrastructure. Chief Executive responsibility?

The new reported lapse is signature of a council failing to care, of being too comfortable by far: Millions wasted in CCC blunder “$11 million insurance mistake by Christchurch City Council.. staff failed to insure the new $21m composting plant in Bromley when it opened in 2009” – The Press, 22/06/2013; and Editorial: Council can’t do the basic things “the composting plant’s lack of cover focuses concerns about the quality of the council’s overall administration”, 25/06/2013.

The crazy thing is, this recycling plant’s speedy recovery to service is a huge good news story – that the council needs to tell. Why hasn’t it?

Next to the Christchurch Estuary in the east, at Bromley, the Living Earth plant was not “destroyed in the earthquakes” as the Press editorial claims. It was significantly damaged, has had to be partially rebuilt in stages, but was up and running – serving the city’s green waste needs – promptly as it HAD TO, given the chaos all around. This was an admirable achievement of the council rebuild staff, and testament to some modern construction in a highly problematic place.

The downside has been for the composting plant’s neighbours, who have faced periodic odour and dust pollution as the rebuild proceeded. These were not new problems there, however.

Eighteen composting tunnels are being reconstructed, in batches of nine at a time, causing reduced capacity and increased risk of bad compost occasionally. The partial rebuild is running slightly ahead of schedule, with full capability of the plant on target for the coming spring. It is rough that the neighbouring businesses and residents have stench to deal with, as waste growth is accommodated through this plant. A range of measures have been implemented to reduce this and the dust effects. The number of complaints is consequently reducing.

From the Christchurch Estuary Association perspective, for which I am vice-chair, we are satisfied that the Living Earth plant is doing the best it can in very difficult circumstances.

The following pictures show the storm-water treatment pond of the plant, working under load at the start of the recent June rains, and very much as it should be. This is important to prevent excess pollutants, especially sediment, from escaping into Charlesworth Drain and from there to the estuary. An inspection tour was facilitated by Living Earth, through the Community Liaison Group that is part of their consent conditions, which enabled this documentary report:

Living Earth storm-water trap, 16 June 2013

Living Earth storm-water trap, 16 June 2013

Living Earth storm-water treatment pond, 16 June 2013

Living Earth storm-water treatment pond, 16 June 2013

It is another amazing council story, really, that Living Earth plant has kept calm and carried on as it has. For keeping waste quantities down in the Kate Valley landfill, and avoiding much higher costs, we sure need it to.

Kia ora

Ref. Living Earth website and Christchurch City Council (CCC) Organics video.