Canterbury Regional Council Conflicts of Interest

December 22nd, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Th Auditor-General has just ruled that four members of the illegally voted on a resolution that affected them financially (more than normal members of the public).

The report is very interesting for those who deal with conflicts of interests, and doesn’t reflect well on the Councillors. They are somewhat lucky that the AG decided not to prosecute on this occasion.

16 Responses to “Canterbury Regional Council Conflicts of Interest”

  1. toad (3,680 comments) says:

    Looks like they get away with it on the same basis as Double Dipton did with his housing rort – it was unlawful, but they had received advice that it was lawful.

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  2. scanner (343 comments) says:

    Two questions whats so different about these four that they allowed to walk away from a clear breach of the law, and why are they still councilors, smells like the old boy network going hard out.

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  3. Tom Semmens (79 comments) says:

    @toad – it is funny how that defence only works if your are rich white member of the establishment.

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  4. RightNow (7,328 comments) says:

    Toad, scanner, Tom – take it up with Lyn Provost, I’m sure she’s not hard to contact

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  5. toad (3,680 comments) says:

    @scanner 1:29 pm

    I agree that resignations would be appropriate. The Auditor-General had already advised that they should not be entitled to vote, and the Auditor-General is the final arbiter (and the prosecuting authority) in such matters.

    The conflicts of interest were not insignificant either:

    • Cr Oldfield holds two permits to take ground water and a permit to discharge dairy effluent to land. He holds two of these consents jointly with his wife and the other jointly with his father. A property for which one of the consents is held is leased.

    • Cr Harrow is a shareholder in Berry Fields Limited, which holds a permit to take ground water.

    • Cr McKay is a shareholder in Kanuka Syndicate Limited, which holds a permit to discharge dairy effluent to land. Cr McKay also holds shares in companies or schemes that have consents to take water and those shareholdings entitle him to certain amounts of water to irrigate his land. He told us that these companies would be likely to pass on the water consent charges to him and to other shareholders.

    • Cr Murray’s husband is the sole shareholder in The Wolds Station Limited, which holds two permits to take surface water. Cr Murray was a shareholder and director of that company until November 2008.

    Given that the discussion and decision was about water management charges to consent holders, I would have thought Blind Freddy would have seen a conflict of interest.

    But they had legal advice that there was not. Whoever provided that advice should be up before the Law Society’s Disciplinary Committee.

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  6. scanner (343 comments) says:

    Toad, not often I agree with you, but on this one I do, this abuse shouldn’t count for resignations, public sackings and the humiliations that follow would be a bare minimum, this is a total abuse of elected power for their own gains.
    There is no difference between this lot and Philip Taito, any fancy lawyer speak is nothing more than blurring the truth.
    Smells of the “Christs College Old Boys Club”

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  7. trout (1,132 comments) says:

    This case is symptomatic of a larger problem; that is the dominant farmer representation on Regional Councils in the South Island. As guardians of the environment they are the foxes looking after the henhouse. The permitted pollution of Lake Brunner by dairy effluent is a case in point. It is hoped that an Environment Protection Agency will sort this out.
    The Canterbury Regional Council has a history of pro farm development decision making at the expense of ground water and river quality.

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  8. KiwiGreg (3,589 comments) says:

    “This case is symptomatic of a larger problem; that is the dominant farmer representation on Regional Councils in the South Island. ”

    Yes if the electorate keeps making the wrong choices the right to choose should be taken off them.

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  9. Pongo (512 comments) says:

    Very good Toad. Ecan is a hotbed of conflicts, mis-management an incompetence and needs dis-banded. I hope the super city works and then they can roll it out down here.

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  10. sheath (59 comments) says:

    Wonder if any of these councillors work for or are shareholders in [name of company deleted by DPF at request of said company]?

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  11. toad (3,680 comments) says:


    I’m not that familiar with the specific problems of Ecan (I live in Waitakere – soon to be part of Auckland, even though none of us up here had any chance to make that decision).

    The supercity won’t “work” because it is anti-democratic, removing control of much decision-making from elected councillors to unelected Ministerial appointees. Well, it may work for big business, which is keen to grab Auckland’s assets to make money from Aucklanders, but it won’t work for ordinary Aucklanders.

    Why don’t we start by getting rid of the “ratepayer elector” qualification which means, for example, that I can vote for Ecan even though I live in Waitakere because I own property in Canterbury? That distorts the democratic process from “one person-one vote” in favour of property ownership, and helps to keep people like these four corrupt councillors in positions of power as members of local authorities.

    I’m not a great fan of unitary authorities either. I think it is important to keep the environmental regulation aspect separate from the issuing of consents.

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  12. scanner (343 comments) says:

    A very interesting little group this, when you start looking around these four have been a large part of a group that was responsible for dumping the existing chair and replacing him, perhaps with one of their own.
    The closer you look the strong the stink, were these people elected to serve the ratepayers interests or their own, whatever the case all four should be removed from public office post haste, and the AG should reconsider her decision, at the very least to discourage corruption in local government throughout the country.

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  13. lastmanstanding (1,727 comments) says:

    Alas there is a very shallow understanding of conflict of interest in NZ governance at all levels Some deliberate come thru lack of knowledge of principles.

    Good governance is good for the whole of society A little crass maybe but true. The challenge for those who govern is to establish the principles and the sanctions and apply the sanctions at a level that either encourages good behaviour or minimses bad behaviour or a combination of both

    Sadly NZ lack the talent for good governance in any numbers. there are a few but not enough who have the will capacity and capability. They are in short supply.

    Until NZ gets to the level of maturity to understand and champion good governance we will keep on getting more of the same old same old

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  14. pq (728 comments) says:

    The Auditor General’s report is just the start.

    There will be big consequences for Canterbury Government.
    One way or another the rural Councilors with water commercial interests are finished.

    There are 14 Councilors, 6 rural and 8 City.

    Within the 6 rural sector seats ,

    Eugenie sage holds Selwyn as a Green, and another rural seat is held by Jo Kane,

    Jo has no political content other than herself, but she is presently conservative.
    and standing for Mayor Christchurch 2010.

    Farmer Councillors are 4:

    Mark Oldfield ; Angus McKay ; Bronwen Murray; Ross Little;

    Green Councillors are 4:
    Eugenie Sage; David Sutherland; Rik Tindall; Jane Demeter:

    Conservative within the 8 City sector voters are

    Alec Neill [ ChCh West, and chair of council ] Pat Harrow [ ChCh West ]
    Carol Evans [North ChCh ]]

    2010 elections will bring some user pays water charges to farmers.

    We are not expecting dissolution of Ecan.

    peter quixote,

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  15. kiki (414 comments) says:

    an environmental protection agency could help remove some corruption and an implementation of the Turnball report

    could do something just need to get Dr Smith to clear his head before anything gets done

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  16. Flashman (184 comments) says:

    Ecan and Old Boy Network are two concepts like Homer’s arsecheeks and the dent in his sofa.

    A perfect fit.

    Every time.

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