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Armstrong To Make Public Confidential Proceedings

Armstrong To Make Public Confidential Proceedings

By Syed Akbar Kamal

Public pressure has led to Auckland City Council's Douglas Armstrong agreeing to make public a Metrowater issue that was previously held confidential to the public.

Finance Committee chair, Douglas Armstrong, said he will make public the proceedings of an item that was listed as confidential on the committee's agenda.

The decision follows an Auckland City Council Finance and Strategy Committee meeting last week that excluded the public through a resolution from the review of Metrowater Ltd’s performance for the half year ending 31 December 2007,

“We are for democratic and transparent governance and we are fully aware that C & R was heavily mandated by the public over the issue of Metrowater,” said Mr. Armstrong.

He stated: “As a result, going by the public interest, I am releasing the confidential papers of the proceedings shortly and of course the sensitive commercial aspects will be blacked out.”

Mr Armstrong was responding to an interview he had given when in opposition last year to Darpan-The Mirror in which he denounced the practice of holding secretive meetings and accepting charitable payments from Metrowater.

He says he does not see it as an issue of double standards and pointed out “submissions are being called for with respect to charitable payments and although some C & R members thought we should get rid of them, it will be difficult to subdue the rise in rates and water prices.”

He added “we have already chopped from 10.5% rise in water price to 5.1% and kept it well within the council inflation rate.”

Justifying the need for having a part of the meeting in confidence for a fair and frank discussion over the performance related issues and meeting objectives of the council drawing parallels to employer doing a confidential review of employee, he said “we are for sensible commercial decisions with respect to water.”

“Otherwise things tend to get sanitized and everything will be rosy in the garden.”

Stressing on the importance of subjecting the performance of directors to a critical analysis he stated “there’s always an element of confidentiality measures involved in this sort of thing.”

He termed it as “common-sense approach” and would make no apologies for that.

Last Wednesday, Metrowater Chairman Ross Keenan and CEO Jim Bentley formed a part of the confidential proceedings over an agenda much to the dismay of a protesting group.

Mr. Armstrong lashed out at the protestors at what he called “bad manners bad behavior should give way to mutual respect.”

He observed “impoliteness will not solve anything” and took a dig at the protestations, questioning “why don’t they stand in the elections to bring about the changes and make a difference?”

Metrowater supplies water bought from Watercare Services Limited to 160,000 customers in homes and businesses over 153 square kilometres with about 49 million cubic metres of drinking water each year, as well as meeting all of Auckland City's wastewater requirements. It contends 60% of a paying customer’s bill goes to Watercare.

Watercare's wastewater gets treated at the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant before it is discharged into the environment.


Syed Akbar Kamal is producer/director for current affairs programme Darpan-The Mirror.


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