Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 


Life behind the veil at HBRC

Life behind the veil at HBRC

Tue, Feb 04 2014


As councillors get into gear for the coming year, it’s clear that secrecy will be the preferred modus operandi of the HB Regional Council.

At our first meeting on 29 January, the precedent has already been set.

At that meeting, we deliberated two agenda items in ‘public-excluded’ session.

The outcome of the first item has now been announced to the public. In that matter, we commissioned two independent reports that will be critical to evaluating the financial and economic viability of the proposed dam. One study, to be completed by Deloitte, will examine the financial/economic case for the dam and the risks involved in a HBRC (i.e., ratepayer) investment (if any) of $80 million in it. A second study, to be completed by Nimmo-Bell, will identify and evaluate alternative investments of scale that could be made to advance the strategic goals of the Regional Council.

There is absolutely no reason why the terms of reference for these studies could not have been released to the public in advance, and councillors’ interrogation of the candidate firms be witnessed. Indeed, public observation of the process would have been reassuring to skeptics of the proposed scheme. Financial terms and councillors’ deliberations over the candidates could have readily been kept private.

I’m comfortable with the assignments that have been awarded. However, I am not comfortable with the extremely short window the consultants have been given — essentially one month — to complete their assignments. This is just another example of the groundless determination of HBRC/HBRIC to hurry, hurry, hurry. Here’s where ‘hurry’ takes you …

Even the Board of Inquiry has asked for additional time to complete its deliberations … and that time has been granted. If the BOI needs more time after seven months to do its job well, surely so do these consultants need more than four weeks.

The second item considered in public excluded was publicly titled: “HBRIC Ltd Staff Remuneration Request”.

I can say nothing about the content of that item at this time. However, a number of councillors, myself included, are challenging the Council’s handling of the matter. We will fight to make public the decision taken, its documentation, and the votes cast. Watch this space.

The penchant for secrecy didn’t end there on the 29th.

Once the public excluded portion of the meeting was declared ended, thereby ending the official Council meeting (of course with media and the public long since gone), Chairman Fenton Wilson offered councillors the ‘opportunity’ to receive an update briefing on the dam from HBRIC Chairman Andy Pearce, who had been on hand for the second public excluded agenda item, and was still present.

Pearce began a presentation, but it was quickly noted that the ground rules were murky as to whether this briefing was to be considered public or confidential. Indeed, what was the official status of the ‘meeting’ at that point?

You’ll recall that Councillors Barker, Beaven, Graham and myself have been asking for a full public de-brief on the scheme ever since we were elected … a request that was re-issued days before the 29 January meeting and to which Chairman Pearce acceded. But, we were told, the briefing couldn’t be accommodated on that day.

After a bit of posturing by various councillors, it became clear that I was the party regarded with suspicion. [Councillor Barker had left immediately at the close of the official meeting to catch a plane.] The question on the table: If other councillors wished to proceed with an informal confidential briefing, would I pledge to report nothing of it?

I declined to participate in a rump private meeting. I gave my view that it’s past time for the public to have a wide-open look at the total scheme, with all its aspects and assumptions on the table. It’s time to take off the veil.

So I left the ‘meeting’ — or whatever it was — and the briefing commenced.

For me, the principle of transparency is paramount. I made that as clear as I possibly could during my election campaign and voters responded positively.

My intention is to press the HBRC towards transparency — the only basis of public accountability — at every opportunity. I intend to press the boundaries … vigorously. Anything less and I would be failing to keep faith with my constituency.

Tom Belford

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

Parliament Today:

Werewolf: The Defence Pretence

Last year, the world began spending more money on weapons again, for the first time since 2011... New Zealand belongs to a region – Asia and Oceania – where military spending rose sharply in 2015, by 5.4 per cent. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Not Crying Foul, Argentina

So a couple of guys found to be criminally liable of environmental pollution in Argentina lodge an application with the Overseas Investment Office… in order to buy some prime New Zealand rural land. Seems that their factory back home had carelessly and/or intentionally discharged toxic waste into the Lujan river. Bummer... More>>

ALSO:

Urban & Rural: $303m To Merge And Modernise New Zealand’s Fire Services

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne today announced funding of $303 million over five years to combine urban and rural fire services into one organisation from mid-2017. More>>

ALSO:

High Trust Regime: What Did The PM Tell His Lawyer About Foreign Trusts?

The Government stopped the IRD from reviewing New Zealand foreign trusts shortly after the Prime Minister’s lawyer wrote to the Revenue Minister claiming John Key had promised him the regime would not be changed. More>>

ALSO:

Road Crime: Wicked Campers Vans Classified As Objectionable

The definition of publication includes any "thing that has printed or impressed upon it, or otherwise shown upon it, 1 or more (or a combination of 1 or more) images, representations, signs, statements, or words", The Classification Office has previously classified such 'things' as billboards, t-shirts, and even a drink can. This is the first time the Classification Office has classified a vehicle. More>>

ALSO:

'When New' Repairs: Landmark EQC Settlement

The Earthquake Commission has cut a deal with 98 Canterbury homeowners that affirms the government entity's responsibility to repair earthquake-damaged property to a 'when new' state, as well as covering repairs for undamaged parts of a property and clarifying its position on cash settlement calculations. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Kiwirail’s Latest Stint In The Dogbox

The denigration of Kiwirail continues. The latest review (based on a 2014 assessment) of the options facing the company have enabled Kiwirail to be hung out to dry once again as a liability and burden on the taxpayer. More>>

ALSO:

Royal Society Report: Good Opportunities To Act Now On Climate Change

There are many actions New Zealand can and should take now to reduce the threat of climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy, a report released today by the Royal Society of New Zealand finds... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regional
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news