World Cup games plot

By Kieran Nash

Rachael Dacy, Events manager at Auckland Council. Photo / Supplied
Rachael Dacy, Events manager at Auckland Council. Photo / Supplied

Secret documents reveal how unelected officials at Auckland Council plotted to sell the city's extra Rugby World Cup games to councillors, the public and media.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown's chief of staff Phil Wilson asked bosses to shape a report so councillors would approve spending millions of dollars of ratepayer cash to stage three fixtures pulled from Christchurch.

The emails also show that officials discussed how to soften the news for residents around Eden Park, where two extra quarter-finals will be played.

The documents were released to the Herald on Sunday after a request under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act.

They include messages between the council-controlled company Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development events manager Rachael Dacy, council chief executive Doug McKay and chief financial officer Andrew McKenzie, spin doctor Simon Roche and Wilson.

The council expected to contribute almost $1.9 million to the $3m-plus cost of picking up the extra games. That figure later rose to almost $2.3m.

Before it was announced that Auckland would host the games, Wilson emailed Dacy, McKay and McKenzie to say he had canvassed a select group of councillors and had their support for the extra spending.

Wilson later sent another email saying he had used the lower cost to generate support and urged the trio to stress to councillors the economic benefits of the extra games.

Wilson said this week that he had done nothing wrong. "I was merely testing the waters in terms of support from the councillors."

Councillor Cameron Brewer said Wilson called him and told him the cost for the ratepayer would be about $1m. "I was also given the message that the mayor didn't want any dissent given the Christchurch sensitivities."

Dacy alerted Wilson, McKay and McKenzie to the blow-out in an email on March 21.

That day, council World Cup communications manager Roche sent a statement to New Zealand Herald reporter Bernard Orsman about the cost of the extra games. He said they couldn't be specific - but the figures from Dacy went before the next council meeting.

Dacy said specific figures were not provided because they were not finalised. On the day the fixture changes were announced, Wilson emailed Dacy saying Brown had appropriate "media lines" arranged.

He also said resource consents wouldn't be a problem and wanted to make sure "the additional demand on Eden Park surrounds is handled carefully/sensitively through the reference group".

Wilson said this week that he wanted to ensure his boss wasn't acting unilaterally and understood there was support for Auckland's hosting the extra games "before he said anything".

The documents also reveal how the council tried to fend off the Herald on Sunday's request for documents about the quarter-finals decision.

An email from World Cup communications adviser Joanne Perry said: "I tried to be pro-active and suggest they sit down with Rachael [Dacy], or better still that they talk to RNZ 2011 ... but they weren't keen on any of those options."

The council passed details of the request to Mike Jaspers, communications manager for Rugby New Zealand 2011, a private company. He replied asking to see any material before it became public.

HANDLING THE COUNCILLORS
Auckland Mayor Len Brown's chief of staff Phil Wilson

March 16:

"I have spoken to enough councillors to be confident around support where costs require signoff (Webster, Hulse, Hartley, Northey, Fletcher, Brewer)."

March 21:

"When I spoke [to] councillors prior to the announcement last week for the purpose of establishing support, I used the original and smaller indication of extra costs I was given.

"Some of them may get a bit touchy about it so please stress in your report as strongly as poss the huge cost benefit/economic value, the fact that it is a small marginal cost on top of the existing spend and the fact that we need to do this for the national benefit."

HANDLING THE MEDIA

Events manager Rachael Dacy to senior council officials, March 21: "Added to QF expenses, the total cost is now $3.05 million, with a net cost to the region of $2.263 million."

Council communications manager Simon Roche, replying to media enquiries about costs, March 21: "We can't be any more specific than that at this stage."

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 19 Apr 2014 04:45:20 Processing Time: 546ms