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Hands Off Hagley Inc.Deputation Council 29 August 2013


Hands Off Hagley Inc.Deputation Council 29 August 2013


Hands Off Hagley Inc. Deputation

Item 13: Hagley Oval – Proposed Development Works And Lease

Mr Mayor and City Councillors, thank you for allowing Hands Off Hagley to make this Deputation.

In preparing this Deputation, we were guided by Mayor Bob Parker’s perceptive comments reported in “The Press”, where he said:

“A governance body cannot function in the absence of accurate and timely information," - Mayor Bob Parker. (The Press 13th August 2013)

Introduction:
Hands Off Hagley invited the Mayor and Councillors last week to a briefing of the significant and outstanding issues, regarding the development of Hagley Oval for an international cricket venue. It is not our intention to repeat the contents of the briefing - however, a key concern - “Why the Councillors were not given a crucial Council-commissioned report, entitled “Cricket Site Options Memo” Report, dated 4 June 2008?”. This Report listed numerous legal constraints and limitations as to why Hagley Oval would not be a suitable site for an international cricket venue.

Hands Off Hagley strongly rejects the subsequent assertions of your Acting Chief Executive published in “The Press” last Friday, that the Councillors had been properly briefed in 2008 about the Report. Clr Johanson has since confirmed that the Report in its entirety was not presented to the Councillors. It is our view the Council staff were obligated to present the Report in its entirety to the Councillors and not a summary as selected by the staff. Further, the Councillors should have been given the option of hearing the authors present the Report.

Regrettably, given the actions of the Council staff, Hands Off Hagley has been given no option but to write to the Minister of Conservation, the Minister of Local Government and the Auditor-General, detailing our concerns.

We consider the “Cricket Site Options Memo” Report is still relevant. This has been confirmed by an email sent last year by a Council staff member, with a legal background, disclosed by a LGOIMA request and included in our Briefing documentation.

This Report listed numerous legal constraints and limitations as to why Hagley Oval would not be a suitable site for an international cricket venue. The Report recommended alternative options, including Canterbury Park (Nga Puna Wai). The statutory Hagley Park Management Plan was a relevant matter.

Hands Off Hagley notes that in today’s staff report, notwithstanding the impact of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act, the authors acknowledge the legal status of the Hagley Park Management Plan; which further confirms the flaws in the Council’s LTCCP funding decision in 2009, regarding Hagley Oval.

Had you been given the 2008 Report in 2012 and understood the significance of the concerns about Hagley Oval in the Report, the question arises as to whether this Hagley Oval matter would ever have gone to the Environment Court, a lengthy and costly exercise, which nevertheless determined significant adverse effects on Hagley Park.

A consent has now been granted and we are here today to present compelling reasons as to why you cannot finalise a lease, today. We add that we are not here to relitigate the merits of the consent. However, we have raised the matter of the suppressed Report because you are being asked to rely on the accuracy and comprehensiveness of a staff report on a lease application. Based on the evidence Hands Off Hagley has, it is our view that not all relevant matters have been taken into account to date, in respect of the development of Hagley Oval.

Today, Hands Off Hagley raises matters of significance, regarding your consideration of Canterbury Cricket’s lease application, as they relate to the legal and financial risks to the Council. This week, we sought to present some of those concerns in depth to the Audit and Risk Management Subcommittee’s meeting but were declined.


LEGAL RISKS TO THE COUNCIL

Reliability of Staff Report
Consideration of a lease application under the Reserves Act is not ‘a rubber-stamping’ exercise of a consent granted under the Resource Management Act. That Act does not override the Reserves Act. Therefore, as the decision-makers, there are relevant matters in terms of the Reserves Act, which you are legally obliged to take into account. The Christchurch City (Reserves) Empowering Act is relevant, also.

Hands Off Hagley has identified errors and omissions in the staff report on the lease. For example, there is a significant error in the very first sentence of the staff report, repeated in clause 21. It refers to your consideration of the lease matter as the stated ‘landowner’. However, we draw to your attention the fact that the Council is not the ‘landowner’; Hagley Park is not ‘vested in the Council’. Hagley Park is, in fact, vested under the Christchurch City (Reserves) Empowering Act, in ‘the Corporation’, ‘the Corporation’ having the meaning of ‘the Mayor and Councillors and Citizens of the City of Christchurch’. ‘The Council’, meaning ‘the Christchurch City Council’, is the administering body in terms of the Christchurch City (Reserves) Empowering Act and the Reserves Act.

It is quite clear the citizens of Christchurch have a major stake as 'owners', so that the Council as an 'owner', is not free to do as it wishes. Rather, the Council must administer Hagley Park within strict parameters as per the legislation governing it, and do so on behalf of Christchurch citizens, and the public, generally. The wording of the lease agreement must incorporate the vesting terms used in the Christchurch City (Reserves) Empowering Act, as this may have potential legal implications.

Polo Grounds
Hands Off Hagley is gravely concerned that the staff report makes no reference to the significant matter of the use of the Polo Grounds for car parking. The Environment Court Judge has made it clear that the issue of the Polo Grounds car parking needs to be considered in terms of other legislation. This legislation includes the Reserves Act and the Christchurch City (Reserves) Empowering Act. Car parking on the Polo Grounds was not included in the Recovery Plan nor was a consent sought for this in the publicly-notified application. In the view of Hands Off Hagley, this raises a very serious question as to how a lease can be signed off until such time as the Reserves Act public consultation requirement, relating to the use of the Polo Grounds for car parking, has been fulfilled.

Referral of Lease Application to an Independent Body
The examples of errors and omissions by Council staff highlight Hands Off Hagley’s concerns, regarding the reliability of staff advice provided to you and your reliance on it to discharge your legal requirements. How can you have confidence in the accuracy of the staff information you are being expected to rely on, all the more so, given your knowledge now that a crucial independent options report was withheld from you? It was for this reason, that Hands Off Hagley suggested at the briefing that a body other than the Council, ie. an independent body, should be involved in finalising the lease.

FINANCIAL RISKS TO THE COUNCIL
Already, important questions about funding and risk to ratepayers are being raised in the public domain. Wednesday’s article in “The Press” (see Press 28 August 2013 P B20) supports these concerns.

What are the financial guarantees?
Where is the business plan?
Given the magnitude of the costs for this project, the risk to the ratepayer is too high without a financial guarantee.
As elected representatives, answerable to the Christchurch ratepayers, you need to have confidence and satisfy yourselves that the Canterbury Cricket Assn has the ability to fund the project and the ongoing costs. Both the Council and the public need to be assured of the financial viability of the entire project, both capital-wise, and operational, long-term; that ratepayers are not going to be left with a financial burden.


Recommendations
Hands Off Hagley, after taking legal and financial advice, strongly recommends that the Council cannot approve the lease for the following reasons:
1. until the Environment Court has finalised the wording of the Resource Consent Conditions and you have satisfied yourselves that the Conditions can be fulfilled by Canterbury Cricket and monitored by the Council
2. until after referral of the lease application to an independent body for consideration under the Reserves Act
3. until the Council has undertaken a public consultation process under the Reserves Act, having regard to the Christchurch City (Reserves) Empowering Act, regarding the use of the Polo Grounds for car parking
4. until you, as decision-makers, in discharging your legal requirements, have satisfied yourselves that the information received from your staff can be relied upon; that you have been permitted sufficient time to consider very carefully and take into account all relevant matters
5. until you, as elected representatives, have satisfied yourselves that that Canterbury Cricket has and will have the financial resources to fund the project and the ongoing costs, should the Council enter into a commercial contract with the Canterbury Cricket Assn.
6. from a planning perspective, proceeding with the development of an international cricket venue at Hagley Oval may predetermine other developments, which may or may not be able to proceed, because of adverse effects, such as traffic and parking.

ends

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