The much-anticipated Audit NZ report into the process Hamilton City Council took over its plan to expand an inner city park has been delayed.
Some councillors are concerned by the delay as it means they will be forced to sign off the Long Term Plan (LTP) on Thursday, including the decision to spend $7 million buying three buildings in the vicinity to future proof them for the park, before learning the outcome of the report.
The independent report had been due to be released this week during a full council meeting, but the council's governance manager has confirmed it is on neither Tuesday nor Thursday's agenda.
Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs asked Audit NZ to review the process after the Herald revealed he only contacted two men - of 36 affected owners - about its plans to buy and bowl the buildings between the existing Victoria on the River Central Park and Embassy Park.
The council wanted to gauge the willingness of the owners to sell, but only developers Leonard Gardner and Matt Stark were asked.
Councillor Paula Southgate was surprised the report had taken so long to be presented to council and hoped it would have been available before Thursday's meeting where the LTP decisions would be confirmed.
"My preference would be to get the report out and take whatever learnings there are in the report and go forward positively from that point on. There shouldn't be any secrets here, it's supposed to be a transparent independent review.
"If we hold onto that report then it affects the public's confidence in council. The longer we don't release it the more people start to feel distrust towards council - what's going on."
Councillor Rob Pascoe said it appeared some people in council had the report for at least two-and-a-half weeks before returning it to Audit NZ and thought the delay was unnecessary.
Pascoe was concerned that if the report was not tabled this week then council would not see it until August, given no council meetings were being held in July.
"To me that is not good enough for a report that is connected quite strongly with one of the major spends ($7m on buying three buildings) in the long term plan."
Briggs, who has previously said he has taken a back seat because of his role in the process, told the Herald the report could not be released because it was still a draft.
Council governance manager Lee-Ann Jordan said staff had fact-checked the report and it had been sitting with mayor Andrew King until late Thursday night when he provided his feedback to Audit NZ.
The council had the report for more than two weeks before returning it to Audit NZ to consider before completing the final version.
"Mayor Andrew has not yet received confirmation from Audit NZ regarding the timing for the finalised report; consequently Mayor Andrew has not advised me when the report will be released," Jordan said.
"The Audit NZ documentation is addressed to Mayor Andrew and as such I can only reiterate that, at this time, any questions on this matter including release of the scope, need to be directed to the mayor or his office."
Briggs and Jordan directed questions about the reasons for the delay to King, who did not respond to the Herald.
King has previously defended the process taken by the council's chief executive and did not think he had done anything wrong, but said the only way to stop the "foxes nibbling at the chief executive's heels" was to spend a lot of time and money on an audit.
The council this month voted to scale back the mayor's initial plan to bowl the buildings and instead set aside $7 million to buy three undisclosed buildings between Victoria on the River and Embassy Park. It would hold the properties until the plan went ahead.
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