Rarotonga’s new water company boss is stepping down after just one year in the beleaguered role.
Brent Manning, who joined To Tatou Vai in December last year as its chief executive officer, has agreed to stay on until March while the board recruits a new head.
The position has been advertised by the board.
Board chairman Brian Mason said they had hired Manning on a 12-month contract, fully aware he could commit to only one year, due to family reasons. His family remained behind in New Zealand this year.
“We, the To Tatou Vai board, had to make a decision whether to employ Brent, who was the best candidate for the job, on a short term contract, or whether we should employ someone who is able to stay longer,” Mason said.
“Given Brent’s qualification and experience as an engineer, particularly in water management and because we needed somebody to establish an organisation from scratch, we decided we would employ him – even though we would only have him for a short time.
“And I have no doubt given what he has achieved that the board made the right decision.
“We are lucky he agreed to extend for three months, so his tenure expires on March 9, 2020.”
Manning’s term has not been an easy one. He has been at the centre of government’s controversial decision to use chlorination to disinfect Rarotonga’s water supply.
The former South Taranaki District Council's engineering services group manager was also called out for the lack of consultation; he issued a tender for a chlorine supplier even while still purporting to publicly consult on a disinfection method.
Last month, anti-chlorination group Te Vai Ora Maori had expressed concern to Manning and his colleagues that when the overseas experts had set up a new treatment and reticulation system and “disappeared” back to New Zealand, “will we have the skills here on the island to run it?”
One of his biggest critics, Te Vai Ora said the appointment of a new To Tatou Vai head would be a chance to take a fresh look at how people want their tap water delivered.
“It’s an opportunity to take stock, look at what is most suitable for Rarotonga, and not something off the shelves or something that they do in New Zealand or elsewhere,” said Justine Flanagan, a member of Te Vai Ora Maori.
“We deserve something that works for us.”
Brian Mason said Manning took on a challenging role and delivered.
“It’s not easy to get a person of Brent’s calibre. When Brent arrived there was nothing in place. He now has a full contingent of staff, premises and procedures in place which is going to make it easier for the new chief executive than it was for him when he arrived.
“Brent had faced some challenging issues which were not of his own making – the issues of liaising with landowners over the intakes and their management, the flocculation of the water, the public in regards to disinfection of the water and the charging of tariffs are huge ones and Brent has navigated a very challenging course.”
Mason said they expect to finalise a replacement by the end of next month and hoped there could be a hand-over between Manning and the new appointee.
Applications for the role, which is open to suitably qualified local and overseas candidates, close on October 31.