Council moves 'choreographed'

By Lindy Laird

Mayor John Carter.
Mayor John Carter.

The Far North District Council has been accused of a lack of honesty and transparency by going in-committee over items that had already been reported in detail.

One critic of mayor John Carter pre-empting discussion in front of the public at last Thursday's general council meeting - by shunting two open agenda items to the in-committee section - described it as "quite a choreographed move".

The items were a report recommending an $83,000 FNDC grant to the Warawara Forest Economic Development project for an access road and a request by Friends of Roland's Wood (FoRW) for help purchasing land adjacent to the existing dog walking park in Kerikeri.

The resolutions to go in-committee were "to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the protection of such members, officers, employees, and persons from improper pressure or harassment", to allow "free and frank expression of opinions "and to carry on negotiation without prejudice or disadvantage".

Chief executive Colin Dale said there was nothing irregular about the decision, which met the Local Government Act "manual". In keeping with staff recommendations, the Warawara spending was given the thumbs up and the Roland's Wood request turned down.

Chairman of FoRW Simon Upperton, who was at the meeting, said he was "fuming" about the council's "choreographed move". The group objected to the matter going behind closed doors at previous meetings, and rejected Mr Carter's explanation the matter was commercially sensitive. FoRW had asked FNDC for a two-year bridging loan of up to $200,000 to help it buy the adjacent 4 hectares.

FoRW accepted the council's decision but intended pursuing the meeting's processes, possibly to the Ombudsman.

Councillors Di Maxwell and Mate Radich also disagreed with Mr Carter's explanation for public exclusion. They were the only councillors who voted against the Warawara spending.

Ms Maxwell said nothing was mentioned in-committee that had not already been aired at the last Economic Development Committee (EDC) meeting or reported in the media.

- Northern Advocate

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