Hamilton Mayor Andrew King has called on an Audit NZ investigation to put a stop to the "foxes nibbling at the chief executive's heels."

Last week the NZ Herald revealed that two property owners were approached by council CEO Richard Briggs last year about buying properties to expand the inner city park Victoria on the River.

The two property owners, Matt Stark and Leonard Gardner, later set up a joint venture called VOTR2 WRT Ltd before the council told the public about plans to buy and bowl properties.

At Mr Briggs' request, Audit NZ will review the process Hamilton City Council took in approaching the two property owners.


At a council meeting on Tuesday, the mayor spoke to elected members about the situation as they discussed whether to release the publicly excluded minutes about the project.

"I don't believe anyone has done anything wrong. This council instructed Richard to talk to the property owners and that was by resolution, not by discussion," Mayor King said.

"To pin this on Richard like he has done something wrong is shocking."

"The only way to stop this haunting this council for the next 18 months is to spend a whole lot of money and resources to put this out to Audit NZ of all people to actually come with a report which will show, and shut down the foxes who are nibbling at some members and the chief executive's heels."

Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher also supported the chief executive.

"I've read that it is a bunch of white shoed Gold Coast developers coming into town, which is quite wrong," Mr Gallagher said.

"The only sin this council has done is that we want to be a vibrant and productive city attracting the best people here."

Councillor Garry Mallett also supported the chief executive and the two property developers.


"These are guys who have the best interest of the city at heart. They have made a number of contributions to this city out of their own pocket and out of their own time," Mr Mallett said.

"It has been very disappointing to see those guys on the front pages of papers and having their character challenged."

"The situation that occurred was appalling and I don't know what an earth anyone can benefit from it."

Councillor Rob Pascoe asked if Mr Briggs felt comfortable to be discussing with Audit NZ the scope of this audit review, given that he may be one of the participants in that review.

Mr Briggs said that audit and risk committee chair Paul Connell will be writing the terms of reference.

The council voted unanimously to release the Victoria on the River project minutes and reports to the public.

The minutes of the closed-door full council meeting on September 21 say: "that the chief executive will report back to the 16 November 2017 council meeting on the potential purchase of 266 through to 220 (inclusive) Victoria Street, including market valuations and an indication on the vendors willingness to sell".