Discussing the vexed issue of Far North dog pounds behind closed doors has been defended by the Far North District Council on the grounds of commercial sensitivity.
The council had been planning to build new dog shelters at Ngāwhā and Kaitaia but had to go back to the drawing board in June when the estimated building costs turned out to be millions of dollars higher than the amount budgeted.
As well as asking staff to come up with cheaper options councillors voted to boost the overall budget by $1.4 million.
The new proposal, which was debated in the public-excluded part of the August 29 council meeting in Kaikohe, was to pool the money available and build one new pound at Ngāwhā.
Funding could be then be set aside in the 2020/21 annual plan to repair the existing Kaitaia pound. The outcome of the debate, however, is not yet known.
The decision to discuss the pound plans in private raised the hackles of councillor Dave Hookway.
He demanded to know what was so commercially sensitive given that information about the budget was publicly available in the council's 2018/19 annual report.
Chief executive Shaun Clarke said the report was ''laden with commercial sensitivities''.
The budget had changed since the last annual plan and it was important that companies thinking of tendering for the project didn't know exactly how much had been budgeted.
''We'd be in a lot more trouble by releasing it than not. If anyone sees these numbers they'll tender right to the limit. We can't afford that to happen,'' he said.
The council looked at plans by the Whanganui District Council to build a new pound for $1m, far less than the quotes for the original Ngāwhā proposal.
Staff said, however, the Whanganui proposal was for mostly open kennels with a smaller building, no undercover vehicle storage and fewer exercise areas.
Construction of the new pound was supposed to start in February.