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Auckland councillor complaint thrown out on technicality

Code of conduct complaint against Auckland councillor Josephine Bartley thrown out on technicality

The reasons why a code of conduct complaint against Auckland councillor Josephine Bartley was thrown out have been revealed.

A letter written by Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town on the decision also shows Tūpuna Manuga Authority (TMA) members will be reminded of conduct expectations during the induction of new members.

Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town. Photo via www.govt.nz

The complaint was lodged by Māngere Bridge resident Kirsty Hunt following Bartley’s alleged outburst in response to Hunt’s presentation on the removal of non-native trees on Māngere Mountain.

During her presentation to the TMA on May 6, Hunt spoke out against the removal of 152 trees at the site and the planned removal of exotic trees from other Auckland maunga.

What followed, Hunt claimed, was a rant by Bartley.

"Ms Bartley began shouting at me and on four occasions yelled directly at me 'you are disgusting!'" Hunt alleged.

However, the code of conduct complaint was dismissed following an investigation by Town.

A letter from Town to Hunt shows the latter’s complaint appears to have been thrown out on technical grounds.

Town, who considered the complaint alongside University of Auckland law professor Dr Ron Paterson, wrote one of the reasons it would not be taken further was because no TMA members saw the need to intervene during Bartley’s response to Hunt’s presentation.

The fact the authority “could have intervened under their standing orders but chose not to”, was taken into account, he wrote.

Town pointed out that a previous complaint was dismissed by Mayor Phil Goff’s office.

He also noted the amount of time that had elapsed by the time Hunt’s complaint was submitted.

The TMA hui in question was on May 6. Hunt’s complaint was not received until November.

Hunt, however, had spoken of feeling “unsupported” when she went to make the complaint earlier.

"At the time when I was going to write the complaint I felt unsupported and I was warned off by people not to put the complaint in," she said.

Town’s response to Hunt’s complaint did not appear to address or make mention of Bartley’s alleged comments.

However, Town wrote he did not want his decision to detract from the expectations contained in Auckland Council's Code of Conduct and TMA standing orders.

“Members of the Maunga Authority will be reminded of these expectations during the induction sessions of new members,” Town wrote.

Auckland's Tūpuna Maunga are owned by the 13 iwi/hapū of Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau through the Tūpuna Taonga o Tāmaki Makaurau Trust.

Ownership of the land at Māngere Mountain remains with the Crown and is administered by the TMA.

The body's intention to remove non-native trees from 14 Auckland maunga, as part of its plan to restore native vegetation, continues to cause controversy in Auckland.

More than 100 exotic trees were removed from Ōhuiarangi/Pigeon Mountain in April and 152 trees were felled on Māngere Mountain in March, upsetting some residents.

Now, the TMA is facing a backlash – earlier this month 200 people showed up at Ōwairaka/Mt Albert, vowing to stay there until a promise the trees would not be chopped down was forthcoming.

Members of the protest group, Honour The Maunga, have been camped out on the mountain since November 11.

They fear the impacts of losing so many trees at once, including potential effects on the mountain's bird population.

Despite the protectors' claims of inadequate consultation, a Tree Council spokesperson said earlier this month input was invited back in April 2016.

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