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Investigated By A "Happy" Auckland City Council

What on earth is going on at the Auckland City Council when it uses ratepayers money to hire private investigators to spy on a ratepayer. John Howard writes.

Last night, my fax machine spewed forth a book, at least it looked like it. Pages and pages of evidence from Aucklander, Adrian Chisholm, about his bitter legal battle with the Auckland City Council over a development on Waiheke Island.

Included, was a cover page from a secret report written by private eye firm, The Investigation Bureau, (TIB) commissioned for the Auckland City Council by its solicitors, Simpson Grierson.

The report was prepared for the senior council officer dealing with the Chisholm case, John Brockies.

Council's chief executive, Bryan Taylor, denied all knowledge of the private-eye report but said he was happy about senior managers hiring private investigators without his knowledge.

Council solicitors confirmed it was normal to seek background on plaintiff's business assets and the existence of the report was disclosed to Mr Chisholm's solicitors last April.

But Mr Chisholm believes the investigation was not just about his business.

Speaking from Auckland he said to me that he has been told the investigation included intimate details about his private life including surveillance visits to his home.

The cover page of the private eye report to Simpson Grierson says " This information is supplied to you confidentially and on the condition that it is not used nor disclosed to any other person, entity or organisation without prior written consent of TIB."

It goes on; " In particular, we request that this information is not to be disclosed ( whether under the Official Information Act or the Privacy Act or otherwise) to any person, entity or organisation which is, may be or is likely to be in competition with TIB."

Mr Chisholm says that statement is an attempt to abuse the Privacy and Official Information laws and to undermine them.

The cover page also says, " Further, the information contained in this repor t has been gathered in some instances from sources who have instructed us to keep their identities confidential."

But Mr Chisholm says Auckland mayor Christine Fletcher is on the public record saying that the information gathered was on the public record. Mr Chisholm asks why a person providing information which was supposedly already on the public record would want their identity concealed?

On Monday he made an unsuccesful attempt to get a copy of his file from The Investigation Bureau.

The bureau's chief, Ron McQuilter, told Mr Chisholm that if he thought there was a file on him he would have to apply under the Privacy Act. Mr McQuilter would neither confirm or deny that there was a file.

Mr Chisholm says he took the Auckland City Council on after he discovered that land next to a luxury hotel he was planning to develop on Waiheke Island was quickly earmarked for a sewerage sludge dump.

The matter will be back in court on May 8.

Meanwhile ACT MP Owen Jennings today will use Parliamentary privilege to detail allegations of abuse of power by Council officials on Waiheke and other Hauraki Gulf Islands.

Mr Jennings says Council staff, with the knowledge of councillors, are acting in a way which is having a hugely detrimental effect on the lives of many individuals on the islands of the gulf. He plans to table documents in the House today to support his claims.

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