The Ombudsman is looking into two complaints against Auckland Mayor Phil Goff over his refusal to give councillors a full copy of a stadium report they can only see at his mayoral staff.
Councillor Cathy Casey said the Ombudsman's office had acknowledged a complaint she made yesterday about the mayor's behaviour. Councillor Efeso Collins has made a similar complaint.
In a response to Casey, an investigator from the Office of the Ombudsman, Nick Kenney, said the office was considering the issue she had raised on an "urgent basis".
Can the Mayor impose such restrictions on me? Can he really withhold in part a report paid for by ratepayers' money?
The Ombudsman has the power to recommend solutions or remedies, which public agencies have a duty to comply with.
In a statement, the Office of the Ombudsman confirmed it had received two complaints and they are currently being assessed.
The statement said the office cannot provide any further information at this stage, saying the "Ombudsmen Act 1975 require us to conduct any inquiries in private and maintain secrecy in relation to any information we receive".
Several councillors are livid with Goff for only giving them a redacted version of a $932,000 PwC report for a national stadium in the central city - and making them come to his office to see the full copy under the guard of mayoral staff.
Goff was not available for comment today, but a mayoral spokesman said it was the first time under his leadership a commercially sensitive report had not been made available in full to councillors.
He said a number of councillors had seen the full report in the mayor's office and were happy with the arrangement.
In a letter to the Ombudsman, Casey said after being told she could only see the full report in the mayor's office she felt "completely undermined and untrusted as an elected ward councillor Auckland Council".
"Can the Mayor impose such restrictions of me? Can he really withhold in part a report paid for by ratepayers' money?" Casey asked the Ombudsman.
Councillor Mike Lee said on Facebook that pages and pages of the PwC report given to councillors were completely blacked out.
"Extraordinary. I have never seen anything like it ... it would seem the CIA is a model of transparency compared to Auckland Council," he said.
Albany councillors John Watson and Wayne Walker have seen the full report under the watch of mayoral staff, but were not allowed to copy it or take it away.
"It's pretty insulting behaviour. PwC are paid nearly $1 million for this and we are not allowed to have a full copy and reflect on it," Watson said.
Councillor Chris Darby, who chairs the planning committee that oversees the council's stadium strategy, said he had a copy of the heavily redacted PwC report and planned to view the full report in the mayor's office.
"It's reasonable for those responsible for the governance of Auckland to have all the information at their fingertips," said Darby, who was holding off until he had seen the full report before deciding if there is good reason to distribute a heavily redacted study.
Goff, who called for the report after being elected in October 2016, has used its findings to discuss plans for a new national stadium in downtown Auckland with Sports Minister Grant Robertson.
He told the Herald on Friday a downtown stadium could be configured for Super Rugby and NRL matches, test matches, and large concerts at a cost of between $1.1 billion and $1.5b.
The PwC report said a national football stadium "would bring tremendous economic and social benefits to Auckland and New Zealand", including major events attracting local residents and visitors, jobs and environmentally sustainable design and operating solutions.
Large-scale stadiums require considerable investment but are "highly unlikely to be able to generate returns that can cover the cost of securing that capital", the report said.
It has recommended proceeding to the next stage of developing a master plan for a national stadium.
At Parliament today, Sports Minister Grant Robertson reiterated he had spoken with Goff about the stadium idea and told him he had higher priorities for spending at the moment.
He said Eden Park still had "life in it ... but long-term you are probably looking at a different facility for Auckland", adding most Aucklanders and New Zealanders would like a modern stadium on the waterfront.
"Long term Eden Park has challenges. It is in a residential area which limits the amount of games that can be played there. Most large cities in the world go for more downtown-town type stadiums nowadays," Robertson said.
Goff has no sign-off from the 20 councillors to proceed further with a national stadium and planning committee chairman Chris Darby has said there will not be a "single dollar" in the new 10-year budget for a stadium.
Goff said the report had identified six possible locations for a national stadium, citing commercially sensitivity for not naming them.
Meanwhile, the National MP for Maungakiekie and former Auckland councillor, Denise Lee, has introduced a private member's bill that would enable elected members of local authorities to gain greater access to official information.
She said the Local Government Official Information and Meetings (Rights of Members) Amendment Bill creates a system that will bridge the information gap between mayors and other elected councillors.
Lee cited the Auckland case of councillors going to the Ombudsman to access information on a National Stadium, saying it is clear the system is broken and the bill will fix it.