Wellington's mayor has been accused of undermining good faith and faces another request for the Auditor-General to investigate his council after potentially pulling funding for a Chinese Garden in the central city.
In a chaotic Long Term Plan meeting last week Mayor Andy Foster introduced 11 last-minute amendments, including the removal of $6.5m for the Frank Kitts Park Garden Development, which includes the Chinese Garden.
The proposal to axe the funding will be consulted on as part of the council's draft 10-year-budget.
Foster signalled his intentions to pull the funding just two days after mingling with a group of Chinese community leaders - without telling them about the proposed funding cut for the gardens.
Now the Wellington Chinese Garden Society (WCGS) has resorted to emailing the Auditor-General requesting the council be investigated, having only found out about the funding cut through the media.
Foster had claimed the cost of the park had increased by $10 million to $40 million, WCGS spokeswoman Tina Dome said, but they had not been provided any information supporting this assertion.
On Tuesday Dome sent an email to the Auditor-General requesting an investigation into the "irregular resolution" that had been made.
"The resolution that was agreed to is as follows: 'Remove $6.5m for Frank Kitts Park Garden Development,'" Dome wrote in the email.
"The council agreed a $1m contribution from the WCGS towards the construction costs of the garden," she said.
"The resolution undermines the good faith in which the WCGS has worked for many years to fundraise the requested contribution. The WCGS was only made aware of the motion by media after it was passed at the 18 February council meeting."
Much time and money had been spent by ratepayers already to get the plans to this point, she said.
Dome also noted an agreement had been signed in 2014 between the mayor for the Chinese city of Xiamen and Wellington City Council's mayor in 2014 for the garden to be built.
"The agreement was for Xiamen to support the garden and to make a substantial contribution towards its construction."
Dome said councillors were not forewarned of Foster's resolution to remove $6.5m funding for the park redevelopment before the council meeting, and they were not provided with any supporting material, legal advice or financial analysis about the proposed resolution and its impact.
"The only information sent to councillors prior to the meeting was a difficult-to-comprehend email from the mayor on February 16 2021 at 8:55pm."
It remained "unclear" what part of the redevelopment would be affected by the funding cut, however the garden was originally budgeted at $6.5m.
"At the Council meeting when asked by councillor Jill Day whether the Chinese community was aware of the proposal to pull funding for the park upgrade, Mayor Foster said: 'I'm not sure whether they know or don't know. They will now.'"
The WCGS requested the Auditor-General investigate whether council had failed to comply with the Local Government Act 2002 and the elements of good governance.
This included the requirement to have sufficient information and analysis and provide the council with guidance about how to address or rectify a matter.
"Further, I request that you provide councillors and the council's executive leadership team with training about good governance," Dome wrote.
The request is the second in a week to reach the Auditor-General, with councillor Fleur Fitzsimons writing to their office on Sunday about the meeting.
Foster yesterday also announced an independent review of the council's governance.
He told councillors at a full Wellington City Council meeting it was apparent they had arrived at a crossroads and a significant change in governance was required.
"The time to do that is now," Foster said.
"A succession of incidents and comments over a period of time has given cause to an environment of public and media speculation and now ministerial comment."
Foster has been approached for comment on the latest email to the Auditor-General.