Criticism into a process Hamilton City Council took over plans to expand a central city park which would secure key land to open the city to the river has been labelled politicking by a city councillor.
The Audit NZ report cleared the council of giving a material advantage to two property developers and found the unusual process taken by council around plans to expand Victoria on the River to Embassy Park was acceptable given time constraints and commercial sensitivity was discussed at the council meeting today.
Councillor Geoff Taylor said he was pleased but not surprised by the outcome, saying it was ''much ado about nothing''.
''What the investigation did show is it was a good faith process reflecting a sense of urgency to make the most of the opportunity to purchase land which was available in the most strategic location in our city. But then the politicking got in the way.
''I would have thought a genuine river plan supporter would support any attempt to open up or at least retain the possibility of opening up land in a most strategically important place in the city to once and for all, after 100 years of ignoring the river, to open up Victoria St to the river. But it didn't happen and to me it just makes wonder about things.''
Councillor Martin Gallagher agreed and strongly reminded elected members qualified privilege only went so far in protecting council members.
''I want to deplore the loose talk that deliberately or inadvertently sullied reputations.''
But councillor Angela O'Leary took offence to comments aimed at some councillors with the words virtue and slander and said, for her, it was always about the process.
She said the report found the process around the central city park proposal could have been done better and blamed part of that on the lack of information given to councillors in a verbal report.
Councillor Paula Southgate said the purpose of the report, prompted by the public, was to make sure everything was above board and transparent.
''The public, remember, had raised these concerns, the public were asking these questions and it is, as councillor O'Leary as alluded to, good governance and representation of ratepayers to ask questions.
''The report did indicate there were some blurred lines at governance level and going forward it's going to be vitally important that we are squeaky clean.''
Southgate said the proposal for the expanded park had good elements, but was there was still no good business plan to support it.
''There can no be deals outside public process with public money. We need to ensure we proceed openly in a planned way.''
Southgate supported the development of the soon-to-built Waikato Regional Theatre and said she looked forward to further private property development arising from the public-funded improvement.
Mayor Andrew King was quick to point out the ruling around there being a blurring of lines was not definitive and believed his actions were ''absolutely appropriate''.
King disagreed with Audit NZ's view that he should not have been involved in briefing the architect of his choice on his own.
''I believe it's completely appropriate for me as mayor to speak to an architect for 10 minutes several weeks before to explain my vision and thoughts.''
Councillor Dave Macpherson supported a partnership between governance and management to get things done.
''It's very important that there is a blurring and I say to Audit NZ that great there may have been a blurring and long may blurring live in this area.''
A motion of 6 to 4 was passed to reiterate good governance, despite some arguing it was a pointless motion to save face. Councillors Rob Pascoe, Siggi Henry and James Casson were absent.