Reynold Macpherson has cost ratepayers $237,336 in the past 3-1/2 years, according to figures presented in a Rotorua Lakes Council report today.

But it's a cost Macpherson defends, saying it's the price of democracy.

The report, received by the council's Operations and Monitoring Committee, outlines the ways Macpherson, the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group's secretary, had incurred costs to the council through requests for official information, and staff time.

The council's chief executive office manager Craig Tiriana told the committee the council had spent about 309 hours dealing with 190 "pieces of work" relating to or directly from Macpherson.


"One of the important things to quantify is [the report] says 190 pieces of work; that's relating to questions under the LGOIMA act [Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act], all the way through to any inquiries or face to face meetings.

The most expensive single item in the report was $6612 for 87 hours spent on legal advice, co-ordinating with staff and more in relation to a petition for inquiry in November 2016.

Councillor Charles Sturt said at the meeting he believed the estimate was "conservative".

The committee requested the report be created at its meeting on June 7.

It followed an Auditor General judgment on the legal costs incurred by the council due to a request by Macpherson.

The Operations and Monitoring Committee met in the Council Chambers. Photo/File
The Operations and Monitoring Committee met in the Council Chambers. Photo/File

Mayor Steve Chadwick said the report was transparent and that was something the council wanted to be.

"That's for the public to decide if that's the price of democracy," she said.

"I didn't know what this would have cost but I'm not surprised."


She said the staff hours outlined in the report could have otherwise been spent on council business.

"That was diverted over to constant requests for information and challenges."

The report also included the cost of legal advice which chief executive Geoff Williams said was "not sought by this organisation lightly".

Councillor Raj Kumar spoke in defence of Macpherson, calling the report a "witch hunt".

"I think this is just a witch hunt and vendetta to weaken a democratic right to challenge the issues that someone is seeking. What are we trying to prove over here?"

In the report, council officers' time was valued at $76 per hour, the rate the council uses under LGOIMA.

"According to council records, Mr Macpherson has required council to complete 190 pieces of work since December 2014 through to June 2018," the report said.

"This work ranges from questions under LGOIMA, responses to media inquiries following RDRR press releases, correcting misinformation in letters to the editor, email inquiries, meetings and legal work.

"A conservative estimate of staff time is 309 hours across various levels of the organisation."

Many of the inquiries are coded as media requests.

Tiriana told the committee those were requests made as a result of press releases and information put out by Macpherson.

After the meeting, Macpherson told the Rotorua Daily Post there was a price to democracy.

"There is a price. It's called accountability and that is a price we have got to pay to remain open and provide answers," he said.

As an organisation, the RDRR advocates for the way rates are spent.

When asked how he felt, given more than $237k worth of rates had been spent on answering his inquiries, Macpherson said it was "trivial compared to the costs of all the stuff they have wasted money on".

"It's one-seventh of what they spent on Mudtopia. What's a fair comparison?

"The LGOIMA requests I made are a fraction of all such requests made of the council."

He said the report could be seen as "an attempt to knock out a potential [mayoral] opponent" before next year's election.

He wouldn't reveal if he would stand next year and said that would be decided at the RDRR's first meeting in 2019.

Macpherson was unsuccessful in his bid for the mayoralty in 2016.