Some Hawke's Bay Regional councillors have been accused of putting the authority's reputation at risk by making comments that undermine the council's position.

However, the identity of these councillors was not revealed when council staff presented their risk management review report to the council's audit and risk committee yesterday.

The report states there is an "escalated risk" to the council's reputation due to some comments made by councillors.

Some councillors were not adhering to the council code of conduct and were not being held accountable, it read.


When questioned what prompted the report, council chief executive Liz Lambert said: "To be honest councillor, the current term of council."

While it was not an "executive level risk" it remains a risk to the council's reputation, she said.

Councillor Rick Barker said if things were out of order it was the chair's responsibility to maintain such order, to which Chairman Fenton Wilson responded: "That is complete rubbish".

"Not trying to sound defensive, [but] I do disagree with the remark that the chair should be able to control everyone around the table, absolutely not," Mr Wilson said.

"Quite simply the staff are expressing the risk that has escalated around the reputation of this council because of the way some councillors behave."

Mr Barker clarified his point, saying that if councillors had breached the code of conduct then the person who leads the process to hold councillors accountable should be the chair.

Mr Wilson replied: "And fair comment." However, he said that the council's code of conduct "is so weak" there is nothing to hold people accountable to.

"In blunt terms, if people wish to disregard it is a very limited tool to help keep conversations on a pathway," he said.

"So people tend to crawl off and do their own thing."

Mr Wilson said the next council, following this year's elections, would be debating a new code of conduct.

Mr Barker also raised the issue of staff getting involved in the governance of the council.

"Staff are commenting on councillors' behaviour and councillors dissent which [means] the staff are getting involved in politics," he said, speaking to the report.

He said when a councillor is claimed to have breached the code of conduct there was a council investigation.

Ms Lambert said the reference to the code of conduct in the report was used in this instance as an internal control mechanism to reduce the risk.

"It does not try to - play judge and jury or make any assumption on whether or not someone has actually breached that," she said.

Councillor Christine Scott agreed with Mr Barker, with the caveat that politicians should not use the staff and undermine them to "make their point".

Media coverage and a breakdown in media relationships was also labelled as a high level risk.

"All we can continue to do is to keep providing balance out to media outlets," Ms Lambert said.

Following the meeting, Mr Barker offered up an example of comments that could fit into this risk category - that being when elected representatives questioned the authority's $36 million buy-in to the Ruataniwha dam without public consultation at council - then by taking their concerns both public and to the auditor general.

This action saw a 180-degree turn by council with the buy-in now included in the Annual Plan consultations.

"There is a difference between a fair and reasonable dissent and people who hold a contrary opinion [and] expect of all others to toe the line with them," Mr Barker said.