Editorial: An unappealing situation? Good.
What sort of outfit would pay good money to haul itself to court to force itself to change its own mind?
We have been spared - some fans of farce would say we've been denied - the chance of finding out how the Southland District Council would have reacted to a request to undertake such a measure.
Appalled locals weren't minded to give up when council-appointed commissioners okayed the proposal to pipe treated Te Anau sewage 19km and spray it over land next to the airport at Manapouri.
The council's own Manapouri Community Development Area subcommittee, reflecting the emphatically expressed views of that community, was squaring its shoulders to appeal to the Environment Court.
Except, it turns out CDAs don't have that power. Such an appeal would have needed to have been lodged, and funded, by the full council, effectively in opposition to its own decision.
On Tuesday the CDA stepped away from asking the council to do exactly that - a request bound to be placed in the Fat Chance folder, in any case.
Instead the CDA is now seeking to be involved in a peer review of the proposal and all treatment and disposal options. This won't please the most hard-nosed opponents but is the more practical move.
Mayor Gary Tong has been at pains to make clear the proposal is not a done deal and that even now the council is in the throes of re-evaluating the project. As things stand, however, it does seem that the rethinking is more closely focussed on treatment options than on alternative sites or dispersal methods.
We're reminded of the Biblicalquotation that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Councils, however, do have to be able to withstand division, much as they may wobble comically in their efforts to do so. By their very nature they are not always going to be temples of the single-minded.
Sometimes compromise is available, other times it comes down to winners and losers. This sewerage stoush is neither a battle won, nor lost, for either party.
Nobody's going to be spraying sweetness and light over this issue any time soon and there's no guarantee of a shimmering compromise option.
But it's still a possibility. And for now, there are a couple of law firms that will not, after all, be making out like bandits from this conflict. That's something.
- The Southland Times