Ratepayers want answers

Press (New Zealand)/July 26, 2003
By Paul Madgwick

A year ago, the Westland District Council was defiantly pushing ahead with plans for the now-infamous Hokitika plastics factory.

Ratepayers were assured that $581,000 of their money entrusted to some Australian entrepreneurs would jackpot within a year into a world-first factory, and Hokitika would be the world headquarters.

They were promised 53 jobs, quickly growing to more than 100, with the added benefit of having the plant licensed as a Wise training academy for local staff training. No-one was told that means World Institute of Scientology Enterprise, an offshoot of the Church of Scientology.

Nor did it seem to matter that the plastics venture had already been rejected by the business-savvy West Coast Development Trust.

Warnings from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu that the proposal was full of holes and was a high-risk investment were quietly ignored.

Critics and disbelievers were lambasted, and the sole councillor who dared to question the deal was ostracised by her colleagues.

Even when the Australians pulled out in November (having established nothing more than a phone book listing in Hokitika) to focus the venture in Sydney, the council continued to express faith that they would be back and have the factory running before Christmas this year.

One councillor, who doubled as a director of the plastics company, publicly staked his family jewels on that promise.

As public dissension with the project grew louder, the decision was made for a delegation to fly to Sydney to reassure itself that all was well. It returned to pronounce that everything was on track.

None of that will be forgotten now as the council scrambles to rescue the public money it risked.

FT Manufacturing (Westland) Ltd, the company hailed by Mayor

John Drylie as leading the "next generation" of plastics technology, has gone bust, and Westland ratepayers are going to be demanding answers, if not more.

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