Numerous attempts have been made by Hamilton City Council staff to change an independent audit report investigating the processes it followed to expand the central city park Victoria on the River.
Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs and its general manager of corporate, David Bryant, made separate and repeated attempts to correct the draft report before returning it to Audit NZ, emails released to the Herald under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act reveal.
Audit NZ was asked to review the process the council took over a proposal to expand the city park after the Herald revealed Briggs only contacted property developers Matt Stark and Leonard Gardner - of 36 affected owners - about its plans to buy and demolish the buildings between the existing Victoria on the River Central Park and Embassy Park.
Affected staff and the mayor were provided with the draft report at the start of June so they could check it for accuracy.
The completed report, which as of the end of June had cost $25,416.65, has been sitting with the mayor since July 11 and will be presented to council next Thursday.
Briggs told councillors, in an email dated June 25, he had battled to get corrections made and this was one of the reasons the report had not be presented to them on either June 26 or 28 as originally promised.
"We have a number of attempts to correct the Audit NZ report including raising the same points through David [Bryant] and then myself, and only after persistence proving they were incorrect did they make some changes.
"There are still areas that have been challenged and the ball is now with Audit NZ. This back and forth has taken time."
Briggs later told the Herald it was normal practice for auditors to seek feedback or clarification.
"There were a number of people interviewed in the preparation of the report and feedback was provided at different times to Audit NZ. Audit NZ responded, and further feedback was again provided by staff to ensure statements of fact were accurate."
Some councillors, in the series of emails between elected members, the chief executive and the mayor, also raised concerns about the process and delays making the report public.
Councillor Rob Pascoe questioned whether the report had raised some concerns.
"In the absence of the Audit NZ report being available and your silence on this matter, it is possible to draw the conclusion that the Audit NZ report is adverse in its conclusion on the actions of council staff and/or elected members."
Councillor Geoff Taylor said the path and timing of the audit report had been "somewhat long and tortuous" and wanted to see it at some stage.
The Herald earlier reported Hamilton mayor Andrew King only provided his feedback to Audit NZ just days before the report was first due to be presented to council.
The council has also declined repeated requests from the Herald to provide a scope of the review until the report is published because it could prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied the information or who was the subject of the information.
King has previously defended the process taken by the council's chief executive and did not think he had done anything wrong, but said the only way to stop the "foxes nibbling at the chief executive's heels" was to spend a lot of time and money on an audit. King was on leave and unavailable for comment.
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