OTOP member says poor compensation will attract people with 'vested interests'

OTOP water zone committee member Ad Sintenie, who has been there for the last seven years, said it was the worst-paid ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

OTOP water zone committee member Ad Sintenie, who has been there for the last seven years, said it was the worst-paid job he had ever had.

A departing water zone committee member has hit out at the way the group is set up, saying members are poorly compensated for their time and effort, and the committee is in danger of attracting people with vested interests. 

The Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora water zone committee has been tasked with creating a water plan for the Timaru District, to deliver to regional council ECan. 

OTOP water zone committee member Ad Sintenie, who has been there for seven years, said it was the worst-paid job he had ever had. 

ECan Timaru councillor Peter Scott said the money was never intended to fully remunerate committee members for their time.
SUPPLIED

ECan Timaru councillor Peter Scott said the money was never intended to fully remunerate committee members for their time.

It was "a big ask" to attract people who did not have a "vested interest" in water management and expect them to get up-to-date with the very complex issues facing the zone. 

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"We get paid a very minimal amount.

"It's been a huge commitment in terms of time and effort, really." 

The effects of over-allocation of water, nutrient loss and polluted waterways had to be addressed, he said. 

"The issue's so complex.

"If you're a farmer you have a vested interest. Your business depends on it." 

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According to the zone committee's terms of reference, set in 2015, pay for community members is set at $4000 a year - but Sintenie said he had been receiving less than that.

An ECan spokesman said the pay was taxed. 

The chairman and deputy chairman earned $6000 a year and $5000 a year respectively. 

ECan Timaru councillor Peter Scott said the money was never intended to fully remunerate committee members for their time. 

Unfortunately in the last year the workload had intensified due to the work on the plan, he said. 

There was no doubt people with vested interests were keen to sit on the committee, but there was a selection process involving Ngai Tahu, ECan and the district councils and there was no guarantee they would be picked. 

A balance was always sought, Scott said. 

Scott said Sintenie had been a "fantastic" and passionate committee member. 

Sintenie , a former chairman of the Orari River Protection Group, will be leaving the water committee once the plan is complete, as he is leaving the South Canterbury area. 

"The focus really has to be on restoring and mitigating the damage that has been done and trying to create something sustainable for the future," he said. 

"It's a big ask for community members to step up and fix that." 

He thought delaying the delivery of the water plan for the OTOP area until April was positive.

The committee, comprised of community representatives and representatives from ECan and district councils, announced it was applying to ECan for an extension of its deadline earlier this month. 

"[It's better] than a rushed-through plan," Sintenie said. 

"A few months won't make any difference." 

Zone committee member and Fish and Game officer Mark Webb said an issue all the zone committees had when they were setting up was that people who were genuinely interested in water management usually had an involvement which was greater than that of the general public. 

However they also had a history of collaboration and an ability to work together, he said. 

"They listen, I think it's OK . I don't know how else we could do it." 

Webb has reached the end of his three-year term on the committee, but is putting his name forward again. Fellow member Kylee Galbraith and chairman John Talbot, also community representatives who have reached their time limit, have said they will not be standing again. 

Galbraith could not be reached for comment, and Talbot declined to comment. 

This year had been the "pointy end" of the zone committee's work, Webb said. 

"So it's important work, and we need people who have been in the process long enough [who] do have the understanding of the reasons for some of the decisions." 

Everyone wanted to be paid better, no matter what job they had, Webb said. 

Keeping remuneration low was a way of ensuring only those with a genuine interest applied for a position on the committee, Webb said. 

Committee member Ivon Hurst, former president of Federated Farmers, declined to comment. ​

 - The Timaru Herald

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