The guilty rape verdict of Mount Maunganui businessman Peter McNamara has today thrown uncertainty over a $3 million funding deal for Tauranga's Aquatic Centre.
McNamara, 46, was yesterday convicted for his part in the pack rape of a woman at the Mount 16 years ago.
The High Court jury in Wellington also convicted three others for the January 1989 rape, including Tauranga firefighter Warren Hales. Name suppression has been continued for the two other two men.
McNamara struck a deal to help fund construction of the Tauranga City Council's aquatic centre through one of his companies, H2O Management.
The company agreed to contribute $3 million towards the $16.3 million project in exchange for exclusive rights to operate the aquatic centre, the Mount Hot Pools and Domain Motor Camp, and the council's other three pools at Greerton, Otumoetai and Memorial Park.
The council expected to receive the $3 million about the time the pool opened in mid-September.
And although no money had been paid over so far, council finance manager Malcolm Gibb said H2O was not late.
However, he said the council had begun assessing the implications of the verdict and how it might affect H2O's ability to provide management services once McNamara was sentenced on August 5.
Mr Gibb said it was a small company with two directors - McNamara and his partner - and the verdict could have fairly significant implications for the council.
H2O Management currently operates the motor camp and four pools, and its $3 million contribution to the aquatic centre was pivotal in the community/ratepayers funding deal which convinced the council to press ahead with the project.
Mr Gibb said the worst case scenario was if H2O was no longer able to continue in business, meaning it could not fund its $3 million contribution.
"We need to see the sentencing, or whether the verdict is appealed," he said.
Mr Gibb said there were clauses to protect the council's position.
He said there were other unsuccessful tenderers when the council called for expressions of interest for the joint funding and management package.
"We are not sitting on our hands - we are looking at our options," he said.
H20 also manages Napier's Ocean Spa pool and Te Awamutu's swimming and events centre.
The rape charge and resulting verdict has put a huge dent in the previous golden run of one of the Bay's biggest business and sporting personalities.
McNamara told the Bay of Plenty Times in a special feature published in 1998 that he was never more at home than paddling his wave ski or scaling the top of Mauao.
At 21, McNamara became the youngest professional swimming coach in the country and took over the contract to run Hamilton's Municipal Baths, later moving onto Te Rapa Waterworld.
Eventually the lure of the Mount proved too much, and he started a trucking business which folded when a major client pulled out and left them high and dry.
He then used his entrepreneurial flair to launch Sensorcorp, which promoted events and concerts.
Another money spinner for Sensorcorp was the Mount beach grooming contract - it saw him invest $250,000 in a state of the art groomer from Germany.
McNamara is also a director on Import Consultium Ltd and Eco Bleach Ltd. Meanwhile, a friend of Warren Hales said those who knew him were devastated by the verdict.
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said Hales "was not that type of guy".
"He is very likeable - this has been hanging over his head for a very long time. I feel sorry for him."
Tauranga's chief fire officer Ron Devlin confirmed Hales was stationed in Tauranga and was employed by the fire service but had recently taken leave.
Mr Devlin was unable to say if Hales had spent all 15 years of his firefighting career in the Western Bay and would not comment any further on the trial verdict. Other firefighters approached by the Bay of Plenty Times refused to comment.
The New Zealand Fire Service's director of human resources, Vince Arbuckle, would not comment on the specifics of Hales' case but said certain procedures did exist when firefighters were charged with serious crimes.
"We take a case by case approach and the impact it has on firefighters to do their job," Mr Arbuckle said.
"Our primary consideration is 'can members of the public continue to have trust in the organisation with the firefighter as a member?"'
The risk to other fire service members was also considered, he said.
The fire service has in the past have suspended firefighters during a trial and if sent to jail, their employment would be terminated, Mr Arbuckle said.
Hales is listed as a director and a shareholder of a company called Loch-Wood Limited, which was registered in August 1998.
Hales is originally from Auckland and has no children.