Whangarei councillors sworn in again after embarrassing mistake discovered

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Whangarei District Councillors and Mayor Sheryl Mai were sworn in on October 25, above, but 27-year-old administrative blunder means they will have to be sworn in again today.
Whangarei District Councillors and Mayor Sheryl Mai were sworn in on October 25, above, but 27-year-old administrative blunder means they will have to be sworn in again today.

A 27-year-old clerical error at the Whangarei District Council has seen its newly elected members sworn in for the second time today.

The second ceremony was held after it was discovered councillors had inherited a 1989 error that has seen multiple elected councils pledging to protect the interests of the council - when they should have pledged to serve the district.

This morning the 14 elected members repeated almost verbatim a declaration they made at the inaugural council meeting on October 25, but with one major change.

Instead of declaring that they would perform in the best interests of "Whangarei District Council", the text which the members read today stated "in the best interests of the Whangarei District".

However, anyone hoping to see previous decisions being overturned following the revelation should remain calm, as WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said the faux pas had no effect on the legality of any council decisions.

"This error was made in 1989, so it goes to show that no stone is too small or too far away to remain unturned," he said.

The mistake was spotted by eagle-eyed councillor Stuart Bell.

"I take my hat off to councillor [Stuart] Bell for bringing it to our attention, and to staff for taking action very smartly," Mr Forlong said.

He said legal advice sought by WDC had revealed "that this has no effect on the legalities of any of the decisions made by councillors sworn in under the old wording". It did not impact the legality of previous councils, either.

But, WDC would "tidy it up right away with no messing about. It means that each declaration for this term and for future terms will be correct," Mr Forlong said.

A Local Government New Zealand spokesman said LGNZ advised councils to ensure they were using the right wording in such declarations.

"Councils should ensure they are using the correct declaration as required by the act - the LGNZ handbook for elected members provides clear guidance about the declaration and the correct wording."

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