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Coromandel’s CFM replies

John Grant co-owner of Coromandel’s CFM replies …

The allegations DOC has made regarding fairness and balance levelled at Coromandel’s CFM are preposterous. 

There is neither substance nor evidence to support the allegations DOC has levelled at Coromandel’s popular local radio station.

Ironically the reverse is true. DOC has acted without integrity in a predetermined and unreasonable manner that breaches public sector codes and the high level of transparency and professionalism expected, by the community, of a Government department. 

My thoughts align with those of many frustrated people who feel DOC can no longer expect our patience, understanding or support. Many are very upset by DOC’s inept handling of the Cathedral Cove track closure and Coromandel’s CFM will continue to drive greater transparency and accountability on this issue. 

It is extraordinary that DOC is willing to attack a local radio station for doing what any responsible and credible media organisation would do – namely question the decision to close the Cathedral Cove recreational reserve without consultation (a decision not based on scientific fact). DOC has exacerbated matters by failing to clearly communicate with key stakeholders and by acting as a corporate bully in refusing to answer key questions or indeed provide any evidence of a repair or re-opening plan. This, after nearly 10 months post initial damage.

The DOC article is nothing short of libellous, raising issues and allegations that I would like to refute in the name of accuracy and preservation of reputation. 

In opening, DOC refers to significant challenges and safety to visitors at the Cathedral Covesite. There’s an immediate anomaly in the fact DOC is open to people accessing the cove bysea – which has significant risk and challenges – but not by land.  In a Tonkin Taylor Geotechnical report, commissioned by DOC, it is clearly stated the beach (from which DOC has removed its toilets) is more dangerous than the track. This makes a nonsense of DOC’s safety claims.

Paragraph two references expert advice. It is my understanding that the only expert scientificadvice received by DOC comes via the Tonkin Taylor report. The report details various risksto visitors, but the calculations show a very low level of risk. The geo-tech report cost the taxpayer a large sum of money and clearly contradicts DOC’s safety arguments. One wonders why DOC chose not to follow the report’s advice. With no further geo-tech reports or professional monitoring, my fear is DOC is now relying on untrained, unqualified observations only. 

Perhaps it is these people who are providing DOC with information like the “180 current orhistoric landslips” at Cathedral Cove. This figure relates to slips noted since1944 and it is mischievous to bandy this figure about without the timeframe. Indeed, Cathedral Cove has always been a dynamic geological site… but so has the remainder of the Coromandel Peninsula. It is a benign, currently stable environment, not an active volcano and is less dangerous than most DOC tracks. The risk should be considered, assessed and mitigated. Why not warn visitors of the potential dangers and allow them to make their own judgments. It is estimated, by the way, that 2,000-3,000 people have walked the track since the closure (none of them in the demographic DOC so colourfully supplied) with only one reported minor injury.The article addresses information sharing. DOC’s communication strategy has been pathetic and therefore CFM has made public interest requests, including one Official Information Act(OIA) request.  DOC’s response lacks any real detail and we are considering lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman for failure to respond in detail to our OIA request.

DOC meetings with business associations and stakeholders have intensified the feelings of frustration felt by locals invested in the Cathedral Cove track’s future. DOC has been selective regarding with whom it communicates.  Coromandel’s CFM is one organisation that unsuccessfully made requests to attend the briefing meetings. Further frustration followed these meetings. The first meeting (with Mercury Bay Business Association and Hahei Residents & Ratepayers’ Association) resulted in four agreed action points. A month later DOC has delivered on only one, with information that’s next to useless. At the Hahei Business Association meeting, DOC promised an independent facilitator – that did not happen; neither did a promised Q and A result.

DOC refers to State Highway 25a as a critical piece of civil infrastructure, and to the Cathedral Cove track as “not critical public infrastructure”. Where is the acknowledgement that Cathedral Cove is a critical piece of tourist and visitor infrastructure? It (with Hot Water Beach) is a key Coromandel visitor attraction. As regards State Highway 25a, DOC can learn from Waka Kotahi, which puts DOC to shame with its transparent, regular and professional media releases and outstanding delivery of a quality piece of work. As a result, this has garnered huge local goodwill.

In contrast, DOC has suffered serious reputational damage. As the months go on, questionsare increasingly being asked, regarding whether DOC is upholding its legislative obligations and its cyclone recovery responsibilities. DOC should consider the role it is playing in costing the Coromandel Peninsula millions of dollars in documented economic loss after three consecutive years of dire economic circumstance. Cathedral Cove provides the livelihood for many operators in accommodation, transport and hospitality. The entire community is widely impacted.

Let’s continue to talk money. The Cathedral Cove Reserve equates to critical tourist infrastructure and DOC’s annual budget is reportedly about $600 million. The repairs and reopening costs of the track are estimated to be under $1 million if a phased approach is taken. In fact, a conservative estimate for the repair work is about $100,000, which would cover a major slip detour and new steps at the bottom. It appears DOC has spent more money keeping the track closed – and then allowing a partial opening – than repairing it!

Given this, it is very hard to swallow the DOC statement: “it was very disappointing to see more criticism levelled at our agency rather than celebrate what has been achieved”. Please! The indisputable fact is: 10 months post cyclone, large tracts of the Coromandel Peninsula’s DOC estate remain closed and often unrepaired. DOC pats itself on the back for working hard to reopen Coromandel campsites. Bollocks! Many are only partially opened or still closed. There is little or nothing to celebrate around DOC’s action.As regards DOC’s Ngati Hei commentary, I argue DOC’s plan for iwi involvement hasnever been fully articulated or consulted. And, as a point of note, DOC has blended the CFM story as printed in the Informer with paid advertorial comment that CFM had no part in and had not seen but are now being implicated in, as if we were the author. Coromandel’s CFM is disgusted at the way in which DOC’s regional director Tinaka Mearns has manipulated three separate pieces of communication into a single response to try and promote a message of “we are right and everyone else is wrong”.

In conclusion, we totally reject comments regarding Coromandel’s CFM and we will continue to drive accountability and transparency from this government department.

DOC’s article should have been providing direct evidence of positive solutions in restoring an iconic NZ landmark.

Footnote: Our name is Coromandel’s CFM – we are not, and have never been,Coromandel FM – as we are called in the DOC article. Maybe a small thing, but if you can’t get a name right…

 |  The Informer  |  ,

John Grant co-owner of Coromandel’s CFM replies …

The allegations DOC has made regarding fairness and balance levelled at Coromandel’s CFM are preposterous. 

There is neither substance nor evidence to support the allegations DOC has levelled at Coromandel’s popular local radio station.

Ironically the reverse is true. DOC has acted without integrity in a predetermined and unreasonable manner that breaches public sector codes and the high level of transparency and professionalism expected, by the community, of a Government department. 

My thoughts align with those of many frustrated people who feel DOC can no longer expect our patience, understanding or support. Many are very upset by DOC’s inept handling of the Cathedral Cove track closure and Coromandel’s CFM will continue to drive greater transparency and accountability on this issue. 

It is extraordinary that DOC is willing to attack a local radio station for doing what any responsible and credible media organisation would do – namely question the decision to close the Cathedral Cove recreational reserve without consultation (a decision not based on scientific fact). DOC has exacerbated matters by failing to clearly communicate with key stakeholders and by acting as a corporate bully in refusing to answer key questions or indeed provide any evidence of a repair or re-opening plan. This, after nearly 10 months post initial damage.

The DOC article is nothing short of libellous, raising issues and allegations that I would like to refute in the name of accuracy and preservation of reputation. 

In opening, DOC refers to significant challenges and safety to visitors at the Cathedral Covesite. There’s an immediate anomaly in the fact DOC is open to people accessing the cove bysea – which has significant risk and challenges – but not by land.  In a Tonkin Taylor Geotechnical report, commissioned by DOC, it is clearly stated the beach (from which DOC has removed its toilets) is more dangerous than the track. This makes a nonsense of DOC’s safety claims.

Paragraph two references expert advice. It is my understanding that the only expert scientificadvice received by DOC comes via the Tonkin Taylor report. The report details various risksto visitors, but the calculations show a very low level of risk. The geo-tech report cost the taxpayer a large sum of money and clearly contradicts DOC’s safety arguments. One wonders why DOC chose not to follow the report’s advice. With no further geo-tech reports or professional monitoring, my fear is DOC is now relying on untrained, unqualified observations only. 

Perhaps it is these people who are providing DOC with information like the “180 current orhistoric landslips” at Cathedral Cove. This figure relates to slips noted since1944 and it is mischievous to bandy this figure about without the timeframe. Indeed, Cathedral Cove has always been a dynamic geological site… but so has the remainder of the Coromandel Peninsula. It is a benign, currently stable environment, not an active volcano and is less dangerous than most DOC tracks. The risk should be considered, assessed and mitigated. Why not warn visitors of the potential dangers and allow them to make their own judgments. It is estimated, by the way, that 2,000-3,000 people have walked the track since the closure (none of them in the demographic DOC so colourfully supplied) with only one reported minor injury.The article addresses information sharing. DOC’s communication strategy has been pathetic and therefore CFM has made public interest requests, including one Official Information Act(OIA) request.  DOC’s response lacks any real detail and we are considering lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman for failure to respond in detail to our OIA request.

DOC meetings with business associations and stakeholders have intensified the feelings of frustration felt by locals invested in the Cathedral Cove track’s future. DOC has been selective regarding with whom it communicates.  Coromandel’s CFM is one organisation that unsuccessfully made requests to attend the briefing meetings. Further frustration followed these meetings. The first meeting (with Mercury Bay Business Association and Hahei Residents & Ratepayers’ Association) resulted in four agreed action points. A month later DOC has delivered on only one, with information that’s next to useless. At the Hahei Business Association meeting, DOC promised an independent facilitator – that did not happen; neither did a promised Q and A result.

DOC refers to State Highway 25a as a critical piece of civil infrastructure, and to the Cathedral Cove track as “not critical public infrastructure”. Where is the acknowledgement that Cathedral Cove is a critical piece of tourist and visitor infrastructure? It (with Hot Water Beach) is a key Coromandel visitor attraction. As regards State Highway 25a, DOC can learn from Waka Kotahi, which puts DOC to shame with its transparent, regular and professional media releases and outstanding delivery of a quality piece of work. As a result, this has garnered huge local goodwill.

In contrast, DOC has suffered serious reputational damage. As the months go on, questionsare increasingly being asked, regarding whether DOC is upholding its legislative obligations and its cyclone recovery responsibilities. DOC should consider the role it is playing in costing the Coromandel Peninsula millions of dollars in documented economic loss after three consecutive years of dire economic circumstance. Cathedral Cove provides the livelihood for many operators in accommodation, transport and hospitality. The entire community is widely impacted.

Let’s continue to talk money. The Cathedral Cove Reserve equates to critical tourist infrastructure and DOC’s annual budget is reportedly about $600 million. The repairs and reopening costs of the track are estimated to be under $1 million if a phased approach is taken. In fact, a conservative estimate for the repair work is about $100,000, which would cover a major slip detour and new steps at the bottom. It appears DOC has spent more money keeping the track closed – and then allowing a partial opening – than repairing it!

Given this, it is very hard to swallow the DOC statement: “it was very disappointing to see more criticism levelled at our agency rather than celebrate what has been achieved”. Please! The indisputable fact is: 10 months post cyclone, large tracts of the Coromandel Peninsula’s DOC estate remain closed and often unrepaired. DOC pats itself on the back for working hard to reopen Coromandel campsites. Bollocks! Many are only partially opened or still closed. There is little or nothing to celebrate around DOC’s action.As regards DOC’s Ngati Hei commentary, I argue DOC’s plan for iwi involvement hasnever been fully articulated or consulted. And, as a point of note, DOC has blended the CFM story as printed in the Informer with paid advertorial comment that CFM had no part in and had not seen but are now being implicated in, as if we were the author. Coromandel’s CFM is disgusted at the way in which DOC’s regional director Tinaka Mearns has manipulated three separate pieces of communication into a single response to try and promote a message of “we are right and everyone else is wrong”.

In conclusion, we totally reject comments regarding Coromandel’s CFM and we will continue to drive accountability and transparency from this government department.

DOC’s article should have been providing direct evidence of positive solutions in restoring an iconic NZ landmark.

Footnote: Our name is Coromandel’s CFM – we are not, and have never been,Coromandel FM – as we are called in the DOC article. Maybe a small thing, but if you can’t get a name right…