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Slush fund to be used for Panda Palace business case

Slush fund to be used for Panda Palace business case

A secretive economic development fund controlled by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown will spend $200,000 on a business case to build a panda palace, documents released under the Official Information Act show.

Decisions about spending the $9.6 million economic development fund are being made behind closed doors by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, another councillor and the chief executive.

Councillor Paul Eagle says the documents show ratepayers and most councillors have been kept in the dark and treated with contempt by those promoting the project.

“We approved the city's 10 year plan in June last year, and there wasn’t any submission on pandas.

"Earlier this month, Council’s chief executive insisted there was no formal panda proposal, yet there was certainly communication in March about a business case to satisfy the Prime Minister's desire to secure pandas.

“The documents also reveal the chief executive of the Prime Minister’s Department had serious concerns about the viability of the project in 2010, which were echoed by Wellington Zoo's chief executive this year.

"Council officials openly acknowledge this is being driven by Mr Key and the Council is duty bound to comply with his wishes.

"And there's absolutely no voice for the ratepayers who will foot the bill.

"What we need now is some sunlight to shine on this whole secretive business so we know who is making what decisions on our behalf. The current secrecy and contempt must stop."

Cr Eagle said the transparency should start with the decisions of the panel that administers the economic development fund.

“It’s unacceptable that we don’t know where $9.6 million of ratepayers money will be spent and whether we’re getting a return on that investment. We apply more rigour and accountability in approving $500 for small projects.”

ENDS

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