An Auckland Council boss who wanted to take a lease on a public boat yard at Wynyard Quarter has been reminded about conflicts of interest by Mayor Phil Goff.
Businessman Andrew Barnes came up with a scheme for the historic Vos boat yard in February last year and continued discussions after being appointed chairman of the council-controlled organisation (CCO) Regional Facilities Auckland in November last year.
Goff said there is no evidence of impropriety by Barnes.
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"However it is important that anyone employed or appointed to work on behalf of ratepayers takes care not to risk creating even a perception of a potential conflict of interest," he said.
A mayoral source said Barnes' actions were a silly mistake by someone new to a public role.
Goff only learned about Barnes' interest in the council-owned boat yard after the Herald started making inquiries about the boat shed under the Official Information Act that included emails from the businessman to the chief executive of another Panuku Development Auckland Roger MacDonald.
Barnes told the Herald everything was above board.
He said his original interest was through an involvement with the Classic Yacht Association which was interested in the Vos shed as a base to work on and repair its classic boat fleet.
It was his view a previous proposal by a group associated with the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust was not economic and he proposed a commercial lease involving his own business taking some space but got no response.
"We knew that building was there, we knew they hadn't had a tenant, we knew they were looking for something, so off our own bat we wrote to them and said 'what about it?," Barnes said.
Barnes said he was advised in September last year that a long-term lease was not possible "so we considered that matter closed and we have had no personal involvement in the restoration of the boat yard".
Barnes said after he was appointed to chair Regional Facilities he spoke with the Maritime Museum about their lack of space for boat repairs and suggested the repair facility could move to the Vos shed.
"I am conflicted now. My only interest is whether in fact there is an opportunity now for the Maritime Museum to incorporate a wooden boat building shed as part of their varying attractions," Barnes said.
The Maritime Museum comes under the umbrella of council-owned facilities managed by Regional Facilities.
Emails released under the Official Information Act show Barnes first expressed an interest to refurbish the slip at the Vos site and take office space on a commercial basis in February last year.
Up until August last year, Barnes visited the site and was keen to execute a lease of the office and agree a proposal for the slipway and use of the shed.
After becoming chairman of Regional Facilities in November last year, Barnes emailed a project development director at Panuku on April 30 this year saying he was "keen to pick up the discussions again regarding the Vos shed wearing both my personal and my RFA hats".
Barnes said this related to a call from Panuku wishing to discuss the Vos shed in January when he was overseas.
"It was not clear from Panuku's message whether they were proposing to make the shed available to the classic yacht fleet on a commercial basis(my personal interest), or in my new capacity as RFA chair on behalf of the Auckland Maritime Museum," said Barnes.
Panuku chairwoman Adrienne Young-Cooper told the Herald she became aware of Barnes' interest in the Vos boat yard after the Herald began making inquiries in August about another interested party in the boat yard.
At the time, she said, Panuku executives told her Barnes had also expressed an interest.
Young-Cooper said Panuku executives are often approached by parties with ideas and proposals for properties and projects and it is important to have processes in place to ensure decisions are made appropriately, either under delegated authority or by the board.
Young-Cooper said with the benefit of hindsight it would have been better if Panuku's former chief executive Roger MacDonald had clarified with parties that any decisions about the future business operating model and use for the Vos boat yard would be made through a transparent process.
MacDonald resigned as chief executive on November 1 after hitting the headlines over a helicopter trip to the Bay of Islands and receiving a bonus and pay rise of $82,500 in the past year to take his salary to about $645,000.
Young-Cooper said Barnes had confirmed to her he has no ongoing interest in the Vos boat yard, but did receive a letter she sent out to interested parties on October 3 updating the restoration process and clarifying the process to determine its future.
"It was not soliciting current interest in the future of yard," said Young-Cooper, saying Panuku was not then and will not for some time be seeking or confirming a long-term interest in the boat yard.
The restoration of the Vos boat yard, built in 1937 and the last remaining wood boat-building yard in Auckland, is a special project for Panuku, Young-Cooper said.