Councillors back Hewitt over dam discussions

By Nicki Harper

6 comments
CHB regional councillor Debbie Hewitt.
CHB regional councillor Debbie Hewitt.

The Central Hawke's Bay District Council mayor and councillors have come out unanimously in support of CHB regional councillor Debbie Hewitt, calling on the Auditor General to speed up the decision on whether Mrs Hewitt has a conflict of interest in relation to the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS).

Earlier this month Mrs Hewitt withdrew from regional council discussions on the dam after both she and the regional council sought legal advice on whether she was conflicted due to owning property within the dam's footprint, and potentially having a pecuniary interest in it going ahead.

At the time she said any pecuniary interest she might have was uncertain and no different to that of the general public.

The CHB District Council endorsed her view in a letter they sent to the Office of the Auditor General this week, asking that she be permitted to take part in discussion and decision making about the dam.

"We believe Cr Hewitt does not have an interest greater than that of any other member of the public from Central Hawke's Bay who is not directly taking RWSS water; and that her non-participation in the RWSS is not in the best interests of the inhabitants of our district or the region," the letter said.

"Cr Hewitt needs to be allowed to provide representation for Central Hawke's Bay at the decision-making table for a nationally significant project located within our district.

"We believe that the question of democratic process is very important in your consideration for Cr Hewitt's participation in the RWSS process. Cr Hewitt is the only democratically elected Central Hawke's Bay voice at the Hawke's Bay Regional Council," it continued.

The Office of the Auditor General issued a statement saying: "We are still considering the application for a conflict of interest exemption for Councillor Hewitt. We have asked for further comments and information from the council and Councillor Hewitt as part of that process."

Mayor Peter Butler said that to find someone to represent CHB at the Hawke's Bay Regional Council table who did not have some kind of conflict regarding the dam would be near impossible.

"Retailers will have better turnover, house owners will see their property prices go up, as will farmers, tradesmen will have more work.

"We would like the Auditor General to speed up their reply to give the go ahead for Debbie to return to meetings on the dam."

Mrs Hewitt said she could not discuss the matter while it was before the Auditor General.

She said, however, that she welcomed the CHB District Council's support and "eagerly awaited" a decision.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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