Goff only partly right
No surprise Phil Goff would try to blame Rodney District Council (RDC) for deficiencies in our roading systems (MM April 21). He is partly right, but he ignores the history which is largely responsible. In the early days of road development when we were part of the Northland Province, the basic infrastructure was funded by the cash-strapped provincial government. Northland was the back of beyond. Few people came here and not many people lived here, so roading was very basic. The geology of the area also meant road construction was more expensive than almost anywhere else. Once Rodney became an entity as a district, there were virtually no sealed roads other than state highways, and the County Council did not have the rating base to do much. When Brian Sharplin became the county clerk and subsequently CEO of RDC he imposed a rigid budget based on “jam jar” accounting, which put about two-thirds of all rates into roads and some significant improvements were made. During my time on Council this funding was being eroded as the Government required councils to take on more responsibilities, but we did get some significant works done, for example sealing West Coast Road and some others in the west – largely as a result of strong councillor personalities and helpful staff. In the late 1990s, Ross Meurant achieved his stated aim to “get rid of Brian Sharplin” through the complete disruption of the council, and the appointed commissioner stopped almost all spending on roads. After I left the Council, CEOs came and went until the arrival of Rodger Kerr-Newell (later accused of corruption in a West Australian shire) who continued the under-spend on roading, including slashing new seal spending. When Auckland Council took over it continued the sparse funding model, allowing us to think that any new seal and road maintenance was doing us a favour. Now here we are!
Elizabeth Foster, Whangateau
Rates and taxes
In the Mahurangi Matters story ‘Councillor slams regional transport plan’ (MM April 21), Greg Sayers highlighted the removal of funding for the Rodney district. In reply, the Mayor points out that we are receiving a $878m Puhoi to Warkworth motorway project. Correct, but could he please explain how much of that amount came from the rates that we pay? I would have expected, at the very least, that he would understand the difference between rates to a local body and the central government taxation systems, due to his being an ex-minister of the Crown. Wellington’s loss was certainly not our gain. Thank you voters of New Zealand. If Phil Goff had got his hands on the Treasury, havoc would have prevailed nationally.
Lance Taylor, Te Hana
Your recent article about Sawmill Brewery (MM March 31) describes a number of their impressive initiatives to improve their environmental impact. This includes using solar energy, use of rainwater, recycling shrink wrap, grains and kitchen waste. What is unfortunate is their use of the certification process of B Corporation.
There are over 1700 frameworks of ESG (environmental, social and governance) measures and the large majority (including B Corporation) overwhelmingly exhibit conceptual confusion and invalid measures. B Corporation is not transparent about their process and hence there is no way of knowing how their standards are defined, scored or validated. Hence to say that Sawmill Brewery “had reached the highest standards in terms of environmental impact, transparency and accountability” is wrong. Your article also states that Allbird shoes has also received B Corporation certification. But according to GoodOnYou (a sustainability ratings platform for fashion) they are not an ethical company. For the labour assessment they reference up to 67 assessment frameworks, including International Labour Organisation Labour Standards. Regarding Allbirds, for its labour performance it gives it 2/5. There is no evidence it has a Code of Conduct. It sources from countries with extreme risk of labour abuse. There is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain.
Eileen Fisher is an American designer and clothes maker that is also B Corporation certified. They utilise the services of independent, third party auditors in order to monitor and improve the conditions at their factories worldwide according to SA8000 protocol. As a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, they are able to collaborate with other brands on audits and training programmes and remediation programs. Because of this we are able to have more confidence in their reports, rather than their use of B Corporation.
Dr Robert Howell, Sandspit
Kirsty McKay of Sawmill Brewery responds: We respect the work Dr Howell does looking into the veracity of these certifications, and we have encouraged him to seek more information from B Corp regarding their transparency, as we have in fact found the certification process both transparent and robust in terms of verification. For us as business operators the concept of B Corp is not confused but rather very clear, practical, and it makes a significant difference to how we operate and what our purpose or goals are as a business. We also recognise that having people question and challenge these certifications is what ultimately can give consumers confidence in them.
More on ramps
Regarding the letter in Mahurangi Matters from John Simons about ramps at Puhoi on the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway (MM April 21). It was because of the work I did with NZTA working with the local community that we got ramps. They were never planned originally, but we pointed out that emergency services (that is the fire brigade) would need them to attend accidents etc., so they redid the plan. Also, I think you would find that the timing was not Rodney Council, but by then Auckland Council – not that it had anything to do with Council but the New Zealand Transport Agency NZTA.
Penny Webster, former Rodney Mayor and former Auckland Councillor