Debate over mayor's travel expense claim

By Peter de Graaf

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Far North Mayor Wayne Brown has hit out at councillors who voted against paying part of his fare to a mining conference in Canada because of a business card - without giving him a chance to explain or telling him their concerns.

Mr Brown said he didn't know councillors had voted down his request at Thursday's meeting, or why, until he read about it in the Advocate the next morning.

Now he wants a new vote with a chance to answer councillors' questions. He also wants councillors to explain why the card is relevant.

"If they've based a decision on this, it's nuts. It's utterly wrong and a complete red herring. It's like convicting David Bain because he wore a red shirt to the football one day. It has nothing to do with it," Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown is travelling to a mining conference in Canada next month and had requested $3000 towards the cost of the trip from the Far North District Council.

He has already been granted $3000 by business development group Northland Inc and planned to pay the remaining $3000 himself.

After answering questions about his own mining interests he had to leave the chamber while his request was debated last week. Some councillors felt it was important that Mr Brown represent Northland at the conference to encourage jobs and investment; others were concerned it was a conflict of interest because Mr Brown had recently taken a five per cent stake in a new prospecting company, Tai Tokerau Minerals.

The debate was evenly balanced until Deputy Mayor Ann Court revealed a business card which Mr Brown had printed with his title and the council's logo, but listing his private address, phone number and email.

It also gave his name and title in Chinese. Some councillors suspected Mr Brown was planning to use the card to direct business enquiries to himself instead of to the council.

Mr Brown said he used his own contact details because that was the best way to get hold of him. Even the council posted his paperwork to Mangonui.

"What's the point of listing a phone number at Kaikohe if I'm seldom there? My own phone is the way everyone gets hold of me."

He had used the card to make contacts in China, none of which had benefited himself. However, Kerikeri High School had students from China thanks to contacts made using the card, and Far North dairy and forestry firms were also set to benefit.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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