During the news coverage of Aisling Syme's tragic death it became clear that the drain in which she's drowned had been causing a problem for a number of years. Waitkere council had received four complaints in five years about it: the drain repeatedly blocked and overflowed.
A homeowner made a complaint about the drain 24 days before Aisling went missing. In addition, Landlady Stacey Baker told the press that she'd made the most recent complaint to the Waitakere City Council a week before Aisling disappeared, after heavy rain moved the 20kg lid of the stormwater drain which was found ajar on the day Aisling went missing. Allegedly the council told her that "the lid blows off number 5"
It then, allegedly, took the council 6 days to get around to inspecting the drain, only to find that large willow tree roots were blocking it and it needed to begin "the process of deciding how best to go about removing them" unfortunately for Aisling and her family that decision hadn't been made by the day she died.
A six day response time - if this is true what sort of service is that? And what's worse, this drain had been causing problems for at least 5 years and it still hadn't been resolved.
The drain was last flushed in 2007 after it silted up, the tree roots had grown into it sometime after that. But, the council knew the lid "blew off" and yet they still did nothing to protect the people in the vicinity? If that is proved to be true some would call it negligence, a gross breach of its both its Duty of Care and of Health and Safety at Work legislation.
Other councils have very rapid response times for missing manhole cover complaints - at Manukau Water it's a "Priority 1" job, meaning it's looked at within an hour. Mark Reynolds of Manukau Water Ltd told One News "that might mean putting a temporary cover on it if it's missing, or putting on a replacement cover". Metro Water has a similar response time and Watercare installed 150 nets in manholes to prevent injuries after the covers were removed by vandals. (see More hands make light work)
It brings to mind the death of Folole Muliaga who died after the power to her home and oxygen machine was cut off by a contractor on the orders of Mercury Energy for non payment of bills. The incident drew attention from all over the world, much the same as Aisling's disappearance has. See
"Mother on an oxygen lifelines dies after energy firm cuts the power over £61 arrears" and "NZ coroner: Power cut contributed to woman's death
We have a feeling that Waitakere's perceived shortcomings with regards to the repair and maintenance of its storm water system is going to result in a massive interest into the coroner's investigation of Aisling's death. We think it won't be long before a sacrificial lamb is found within Waitkere Council to take the blame for it all and you can bet it won't be from among the elected representatives.