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Hands Off Hagley Inc. Briefing for Mayor And Councillors

Briefing For Mayor and Councillors

Christchurch City Council

22 August 2013

Re: Council-Commissioned Independent Report “Christchurch City Council Cricket Site Options Memo” (Withheld from Councillors and Ratepayers) and related matters

Hands Off Hagley Inc. has arranged this urgent briefing to draw to your attention a significant matter we consider relevant to the Council’s consideration of a lease application and Council funding for the development of an international cricket venue at Hagley Oval.

Hands Off Hagley Inc. has received a copy of a critical Council-commissioned independent report, analysing the suitability of pre-identified sites for the location of an ICC-compliant test cricket facility in Christchurch. It is our understanding that, to this day, the majority of city councillors have not seen this report.

The Council management-commissioned report from Global Leisure Group, an international leisure, open space and facility consultancy, is entitled “Christchurch City Council Cricket Site Options Memo” and dated June 2008. The report’s front cover states: “CONFIDENTIAL For Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Community Services Christchurch City Council”.

The purpose of the report was “to provide information to Council on four specific sites that have been identified by cricket stakeholders”. (P2) Based on information supplied by Council and Canterbury Cricket, this independent “high-level site assessment” supported Christchurch venues other than Hagley Oval.

In 2009, the elected representatives of the Council allocated public funds for developing Hagley Oval for international cricket. Further funding was allocated in 2012. The critical relevant information in this report was not provided to you, let alone taken into account by you, for your funding decision-making processes in 2009 (LTCCP 2009-19) and again in 2012 (Annual Plan).

The residents of Christchurch and interested organisations should have been able to view this report, we believe. Its suppression, we further believe, brings into question the integrity of the Consultation (a legally-defined process) that accompanied the LTCCP 2009-19 and 2012 (Annual Plan).

The Council’s commissioning of this report and its subsequent suppression calls into question the legal basis of the 2009 and 2012 funding decisions for the development of Hagley Oval. The suppression from you, as decision-makers, of this Council-commissioned report, with its comprehensive assessment of alternative venues for international cricket in Christchurch, is evidence that not all relevant matters were before you at the time of approving Hagley Oval as the venue for test cricket, with associated funding, in the 2009 LTCCP. Had you been made aware of this relevant report, the outcome would have been very different, in our view.

Firstly, Hands Off Hagley Inc. urges you, as Councillors, responsible for Council governance, to demand an independent investigation as to why this relevant report and related matters were withheld from you, particularly in light of the recent Government investigations into Council processes and decision-making, including rates, building consent matters, resource consent matters and CEO matters.

The withholding of the crucial Council-commissioned “Cricket Site Options Memo” report from you appears to be a further example of that which prompted Mayor Parker recently to express his concern publicly (reported in “The Press” 13 August 2013 Silence on Marryatt findings):

“ "Councillors have not been receiving all of the information they need on these issues and that is very, very serious. A governance body cannot function in the absence of accurate and timely information," Parker said at the time.”

Secondly, Hands Off Hagley Inc. has evidence received under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, that less than a year ago, a member of the Council’s legal team expressed concern to another Council officer that the confidential report, still suppressed, could be the subject of an Ombudsman’s enquiry. This written evidence is dated September 2012.

Yet, only days earlier on 22 August 2012, the Council’s Audit and Risk Management Subcommittee had received a joint deputation from Save Hagley Park and the Christchurch Civic Trust (reported in “The Press” 23 August 2012 Hagley Oval upgrade ‘tricky’ legally), questioning the legitimacy of the Council’s 2009 funding of the Hagley Oval development, given the flawed decision-making process and the absence of a prior Council officer’s report. In particular, the deputation had highlighted the fact of:

No publicly accessible comprehensive Council evaluation of possible alternative venues for test cricket in Christchurch before June 2009 Council decision to include Project 169 in LTCCP 2009-19”

Hands Off Hagley Inc. notes also that the staff concern about disclosure of the confidential report was expressed within weeks of the surprising last-minute inclusion of the Hagley Oval Anchor Project in the “Christchurch Central Recovery Plan”.

May we remind you, as elected members, of your obligations under the Local Government Act, to have considered alternatives, taking into account all relevant information, prior to voting on any lease application relating to Hagley Oval and Hagley Park.

Hands Off Hagley Inc. believes it is duty-bound to alert the Minister of Local Government to this matter.

Thirdly, a letter to the editor of “The Press”, dated 16 August 2013, by Dr Michael Gousmett, as you will be aware, articulated growing public concern as to the ability of the consent holder, the Canterbury Cricket Assn, to fund the Hagley Oval international cricket venue development.

Under the headline, "Ratepayers likely funders of bigger Hagley Oval", Dr Michael Gousmett concluded, after examining the publicly-available financial documentation, that Canterbury Cricket would be dependent on funding by ratepayers for the development of Hagley Oval.

Dr Michael Gousmett examined the latest publicly-available formal financial statements of both Canterbury Cricket and the Canterbury Cricket Trust, a charitable trust, formed to raise funds required for an international cricket venue.

In the current post-earthquake economic climate in Christchurch, particularly with steeply-rising property rates and insurance premiums, you ought to be gravely concerned, as would most ratepayers, if this project were to require a bailout by public funds.

In addition, Hands Off Hagley Inc. will be producing evidence, which indicates the vested interest of Vbase and its shareholders in the Hagley Oval redevelopment, together with the plan to purchase the Canterbury Horticultural Society building - information withheld from the Environment Court - as part of the joint redevelopment of Hagley Oval.

Hands Off Hagley Inc. has received legal opinion, which strongly suggests that consideration of a lease application, in respect of Hagley Oval and Hagley Park, should be referred to an independent body under the Reserves Act 1977. By ‘independent’, Hands Off Hagley Inc. means not being a former Council employee, current or former Council legal counsel or currently contracted to the Council or any Council entities.

In this respect, Hands Off Hagley Inc. seeks confirmation that any matters concerning the international cricket venue at Hagley Oval, specifically any lease application(s) and funding, will not be considered until after the Environment Court has approved the final wording of all the Conditions relating to the resource consent for the Canterbury Cricket Assn Inc., issued 14 August 2013.

Fourthly, should you receive an approach for any Council funding for the Hagley Oval redevelopment project, Hands Off Hagley Inc. would expect that the Council is obligated to use the Special Consultative Procedure, in terms of the Local Government Act 2002 decision-making provisions.
Hands Off Hagley Inc. will be writing to the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman and Minister of Local Government, in respect of the issues raised in this briefing.

Hands Off Hagley Inc. formally requests that the Council:

1. conduct an urgent formal investigation into all of the issues raised in this briefing; and
2. suspend any actions or decisions relating to Hagley Cricket Oval until the completion of the investigation.

Should strong evidence of inappropriate Council processes and actions be established, this would, of course, have serious consequences for all concerned, including Christchurch ratepayers.

Hands Off Hagley Inc. views the issues raised in this briefing document to be of serious concern and reserves the right to consider the option of applying to the High Court for a Judicial Review.

Martin Meehan
Hands Off Hagley Inc.




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