John MacDonald: What's the problem with giving things a go?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Apr 2022, 1:15pm
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

John MacDonald: What's the problem with giving things a go?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Apr 2022, 1:15pm

When I walked out the door just after six this morning, it was beautiful. 

Still and warm – about 17 degrees I think it was here in Christchurch. 

It was beautiful – for a few seconds anyway – and then I realised our mate from Bromley had turned up again. 

You know, the one who works their way inside your house – all over town it seems some days. But I suppose when all your neighbours in Bromley can’t stand you, then you will spread yourself around a bit. 

Now, I’m not talking about a person here. I’m talking about “it”. The smell. The smell from the fire at the Bromley wastewater plant – the fire that happened way back in November last year. 

The wastewater plant that is still sitting damaged and still hasn’t been cleaned up by the Christchurch City Council, which is still scratching its head wondering what it’s going to do to stop that awful stench that’s coming from the site and driving people living in the area nuts. 

I don’t think anyone will argue that it is absolutely shameful that the people in Bromley especially – but everyone in Christchurch – still don’t have a clear idea from the Council how and when it’s going to sort this mess out. 

But here’s where Bob the Builder himself – Councillor Phil Mauger – comes into the picture. 

He’s a real ‘Can we fix it? Yes we can’ kind of guy, isn’t he? 

And we all know he wants to be the Mayor of Christchurch and pretty much every time he comes out with one of his ideas, we know it’s probably all part of his election campaign – but I’m fine with that. Good on him. 

And so today he’s in the news again because he wants to do another one of his DIY jobs to try and make life more bearable for the people living in Bromley around that wastewater plant area. 

The ones who have been all over the media showing off the maggots growing in their backyards. The ones who can’t bear going outside because of the smell. The ones who are saying that when they wake up at night, they can’t get back to sleep because the smell just makes them want to be sick. 

Fellow Canterbury residents – many of them paying rates to the Christchurch City Council, most of them paying taxes to the Government. 

But for the past 170 days, all they’ve got – from the city council anyway – is a whole lot of lip service and not much else. Sorry, I’ll correct that. A whole lot of lip service – and nothing else. 

And so, city councillor Phil Mauger is offering to do something at his own expense, using his own equipment and his own time. 

Ooooh, but the big thinkers at the city council aren’t quite so sure about Phil’s idea. You know, it might not actually work. 

When I read the quotes this morning from the city council’s Planning and Regulatory Services General Manager, one overarching theme kept jumping out at me: “Difficulty”. 

Lord knows how many times she said “It would be difficult”. Difficult this, difficult that. We don’t think it would work. Too difficult. Too difficult. 

She was talking about Phil Mauger’s idea of pouring bleach on the rotting organic material inside the wastewater plant filters – which is one of the main causes of that awful smell. 

There is so much of the stuff just sitting there that if you took it out, it would fill 10 50-metre swimming pools. It’s just festering and Phil Mauger wants to turn up there with his fire hose and squirt a 50/50 mix of bleach and water to kill the stuff and stop it smelling.  

He himself is saying he doesn’t know if it’d work – but he thinks the Council should at least let him have a go. And I agree with him 100 percent. 

As he says: “We have got nothing to lose. It may help. If it doesn’t work, at least we have tried.” 

He’s already had the hose on his fire truck tested by firefighters to check it would squirt the stuff far enough. And it does. 

He’s also prepared to pay for it himself. He reckons it would cost him about $4,000. And if it only stopped the smell for a couple of days, he’d do it again, and keep doing it every week. At his own expense. 

That all seems to have been lost on the council, which is saying one of the reasons it doesn’t think bleach would work is that you could do it, but when it rained the bacteria would kick into gear again and the smell would be back. 

But Phil Mauger doesn’t care about that. He’s happy to keep paying $4,000 a pop and pour more bleach on whenever the smell comes back. It is a winner of an idea. 

Like I said earlier, you can’t ignore the fact that this is probably another one of his election campaign stunts, but so what? 

Here we have someone who is willing to put his money where his mouth is. Someone who isn’t overthinking all the negative things that could happen – like the city council seems hellbent on doing. 

But when did we become a country where we didn’t do things because it might be difficult? 

“What are you up to today, Ed?” 

“Oh, I’m off to climb Mount Everest.” 

“Oooh, that might be a bit difficult. Probably not a good idea.” 

Phil Mauger has done the thinking – now he wants to get on with the doing. 

As he says, “if the bloody thing wasn’t behind a fence, I’d be down there giving it a go now”. 

And he should be allowed to be down there right now, giving what could turn out to be a hair-brained idea – or could turn out to be a gamechanger for the people of Bromley – giving it a go. 

Because the city council planners don’t seem to have any ideas. So why on earth should they get away with putting the kibosh on someone else’s ideas?