Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Mayor races in to back V8s plan and reject call for meeting

Auditor-General asked to rule on confidential information.Auckland Council hopes V8 Supercar fans will flock to Pukekohe to see drivers such as Jamie Whincup in action.  Photo / Christine Cornege
Auditor-General asked to rule on confidential information.Auckland Council hopes V8 Supercar fans will flock to Pukekohe to see drivers such as Jamie Whincup in action. Photo / Christine Cornege

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is confident the council and its events arm have made the right call on the V8 Supercars and rejects criticism over financial information being withheld from councillors.

Mr Brown yesterday backed the process that led to $10.6 million of ratepayers' money being spent on returning the annual event to Pukekohe and brought a complaint to the Auditor-General.

Last Thursday, the strategy and finance committee voted 9-5 to hold the annual V8 Supercar event at Pukekohe for five years after Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development officials refused to release a due diligence report and risk details to councillors.

The V8 Supercar Australia event has been the subject of scathing audits in Canberra, Sydney and Hamilton, where it cost ratepayers $40 million. Audit New Zealand criticised Hamilton management for not trusting councillors with confidential information.

Mr Brown, who was in Auckland briefly between flights on a trade mission he is leading to the Pacific Islands, said he would have voted with the majority if he had been at the meeting.

He confirmed he had not seen the due diligence report and risk review, but had been fully briefed by Ateed chief executive Phil O'Riley and had confidence the board had undertaken all the proper work to protect ratepayers and ensure a successful event.

Councillors had had two briefings before Thursday's vote on the matter, he said.

Mr Brown said the event would be "massive for Auckland" with 50,000 visitors and an economic benefit at the "very least" of $8 million to $10 million a year from an investment of $2.1 million.

He rejected a call by Cameron Brewer for an extraordinary meeting on his return to allow councillors, council staff and the public to view and assess the reports, albeit behind closed doors for commercially sensitive information.

Last night, Mr Brewer said the mayor was not interested in transparency and accountability and accused Ateed of controlling the flow of information.

Ateed later said the figure of 50,000 nights came from a economic impact report by Covec. It used figures from the 2011 event in Hamilton, statistics from other events, interviews with V8 Supercars and conservative assumptions.

A spokesman said of the 50,064 visitors nights, about half would stay with friends and relatives.

The Auditor-General is investigating a complaint from councillor Cathy Casey on whether the council should have had access to confidential information and whether withholding it compromised last Thursday's decision.

- NZ Herald

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