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Backroom deal calls into question impartiality

Save the Basin Campaign: Backroom deal calls into question impartiality of cricket experts

The Save the Basin Campaign has raised concerns that a recently-uncovered agreement tells expert witnesses what they should say in evidence to the Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry, breaking the rules that expert witnesses must abide by.

“A previously confidential Memorandum of Understanding between Wellington City Council, the Basin Reserve Trust and the New Zealand Transport Agency has come to light in documents prepared for the current Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry,” explained Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones. “The Memorandum was signed in March 2013, and it says that all three parties will support the construction of a 65-metre-long Northern Gateway Building which is designed to block the proposed Basin Reserve flyover from view – though design drawings clearly show there will still be gaps through which the flyover is visible.”

“But what concerns us most, in terms of the hearing process, is that this Memorandum tells supposedly independent expert witnesses called by the parties to it what to say in their evidence,” Tim Jones continued. “The Memorandum of Understanding states:

3.3 The Wellington City Council and the Basin Reserve Trust will provide the necessary expert evidence to support the 65m structure during the national consenting process.

but the Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses, which all expert witnesses are required to abide by, states in part

5.2.1 An expert witness has an overriding duty to assist the Court impartially on relevant matters within the expert's area of expertise.

5.2.2 An expert witness is not, and must not behave as, an advocate for the party who engages the witness. …”

“The WCC and the Basin Reserve Trust are calling some very distinguished witnesses on cricket matters, including Martin Snedden, Sir John Anderson, and Don Neely. But Sir John Anderson and Don Neely are trustees of the Basin Reserve Trust. Therefore, they are bound by both the Memorandum of Understanding, which states that their evidence is being provided to support the construction of a 65 metre Northern Gateway Building, and the Code of Conduct, which states that their evidence must be impartial and that they cannot behave as advocates.”

“It is, to say the least, unfortunate that the Basin Reserve Trust, WCC and NZTA have placed a distinguished cricket historian in Don Neely, and a cricket administrator with a long record of service at national and international level in Sir John Anderson, in this position,” Tim Jones concluded. “The backroom deal contained in the Memorandum of Understanding calls their impartiality into question and undermines the credibility of their evidence.”


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