Kaipara mayor says termination of Crown manager leaves council to deal with 'complex legal issues'

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Kaipara District mayoral candidate Greg Gent. 1 September 2016 Northern Advocate Photograph by John Stone.
Kaipara District mayoral candidate Greg Gent. 1 September 2016 Northern Advocate Photograph by John Stone.

Kaipara mayor Greg Gent has spoken out over the Government terminating the appointment of a Crown manager on a technicality, leaving the council without expertise to manage outstanding historical legal matters.

Associate Local Government Minister Jacqui Dean last week withdrew Peter Winder from KDC after just nine months due to concerns about "potential technical flaws" with his appointment and the Terms of Reference.

Peter Winder was appointed as Crown manager on July 7, 2016 by the then Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston for a three-year term to manage outstanding legal matters relating to past issues, including rates challenges in respect of the Mangawhai wastewater sewerage scheme.

Ms Dean said matters relating to ministerial powers of assistance and intervention in local government matters under the Local Government Act 2002 were not explicitly referred to in the gazetted notice of Mr Winder's appointment.

"These are potential flaws, but we are taking a cautionary approach to avoid any doubt.

"The Government is working with KDC on exploring options to provide ongoing support, including the possibility of a new Crown manager appointment."

Ms Dean said neither Mr Winder's past actions nor that of KDC were questioned but there would be uncertainty about the legality of future decisions he made if the role continued.

"I am advised that past directions of the Crown Manager stand because they were made in good faith," she said.

But Mr Gent is disappointed his council may have to deal with complex legal issues it has no understanding of.

"Me and the councillors, we all stood for the roles on the basis we don't have to deal with historical legal matters after the election. The Government made a public announcement to that effect.

"You could argue there's been a breach of contract by the minister. Most issues in terms of historical legal matters are technical and it makes sense they are handled by those that have an understanding of those matters."

The mayor said he had not seen the legal advice Ms Dean received prior to terminating Mr Winder's appointment, although the council was informed of the associate minister's decision.

"The Government recognised Kaipara has challenges and the fact a new council will have a lot to deal with so it was a sensible decision to appoint a Crown manager.

"We came in with an expectation on what our roles will be. Now, our roles have changed dramatically and we're waiting in good faith for the Government to remedy the situation," Mr Gent said.

Mr Winder refused to comment on his termination, except that he was happy to help the council if his services were again needed.

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