Call for inquiry into Upper Hutt Council’s handling of noise complaints

Upper Hutt council have been accused of failing to act in good faith in their dealings with a group of locals who complained about noise from a nearby factory.

A full investigation into the council’s handling of the long-running saga is a step further, with its political committee to consider the request for an independent inquiry.

Resident Logan McLean told the council’s Risk and Insurance Committee last Wednesday that after years of battling flatbread company Farrah over noise complaints, he had no confidence in the board.

He alleged multiple violations of the Privacy Act and the systematic failure by officers to comply with requests for information about Farrah’s.

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“We have routinely seen our concerns ignored, downplayed or dismissed outright,” he said.

Three complaints to the ombudsman had been upheld in the past year and McLean called for an independent review of the board’s treatment of Farrah’s.

Chief executive Peter Kelly issued a statement challenging some of the points made by McLean and dismissed the suggestion that the board failed to act in good faith.

An apology was issued for the breach of privacy and the council changed its procedures following the findings of the mediator, he said.

“Ultimately, we are happy to conduct an independent review if that is what advisors want, and we would welcome the findings and any learnings from it. It is important for us to remain open and transparent.

McLean said he was speaking out publicly despite Farrah telling members of a community liaison group that the company would stop working to find a solution if members spoke to the media.

A container wall has been installed at Farrah's factory in Upper Hutt to try to reduce noise.

Logan McLean

A container wall has been installed at Farrah’s factory in Upper Hutt to try to reduce noise.

Farrah’s general manager, Mike Murray, released a two-sentence statement saying Farrah intended to remain in the community liaison group. He did not address the issue of the threat of withdrawing from community involvement if members take their concerns to the media.

“Since its introduction in March of this year, Farrah’s has met regularly with community stakeholders and will continue to honor its commitment to open dialogue with the group,” Murray said.

McLean had tried to get information about a roughly $80,000 council grant to Farrah’s in 2017. The Office of the Auditor General declined to comment on the legality of the grant, but referred the matter to the auditor who performs the annual audit of the board.

Council officials deliberately withholding information reflect badly on the council, he said.

Advisors from the Risk and Insurance Committee questioned officers about their responses to official inquiries and whether they followed the correct procedures. The committee agreed to refer McLean’s request for an independent investigation into the council’s dealings with Farrah’s to its policy committee on Wednesday.

After the meeting, Mayor Wayne Guppy acknowledged the issues raised were serious and said it would now be up to councilors to decide whether an investigation was warranted.

Deputy Mayor Hellen Swales said she was disappointed to hear the claim that Farrah’s would pull out of the community group if members went to the media.

Elected members should have been informed of the threat by council officers, she said.

Craig Riley, with family dog ​​Gizmo, pictured last November after complaining about noise from the Farrah factory.

MONIQUE FORD/Stuff

Craig Riley, with family dog ​​Gizmo, pictured last November after complaining about noise from the Farrah factory.

Swales said she “absolutely” supports the call for a broader investigation into the council’s actions. These problems could have been avoided if elected officials had been better informed of what was happening, she said.

With more information, councilors could have brought everyone around the council table to resolve the situation, she said.

McLean said he was “reassured” to hear the policy committee would discuss his complaints.

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