Horo. Council’s Plans on Website — at Last!

Veronica Harrod reports that almost two months after being adopted two Horowhenua District Council strategies on land and property development plans for the district and Levin Central Business District have finally been made publicly available on the Plans and Strategies section of Council.’s website.

[https://www.horowhenua.govt.nz/Council/Plans-Strategies].

The ‘Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040’ and the ‘Levin Town Centre Strategy: Transforming Taitoko/Levin’, adopted on 21 November, 2018 will arguably dominate the district’s political and economic priorities for at least the next 20 years.

At the same Council meeting councillors also voted in favour of giving chief executive David Clapperton, “delegated authority” to make what is referred to as, “minor editorial changes” to the two strategies.

Horowhenua Chief Executive David Clapperton

A potential conflict of interest concern is that Mr Clapperton has a dual role as chief executive for the Council and he is assisting the establishment of the Horowhenua New Zealand Trust (HNZT).

Mr Clapperton’s reply

But the Chief Executive says: “As I explained in my comments to the last blog written by your correspondent on this topic it is standard practice across NZ for council chief executives — as the Elected Representatives only employee — to be given delegated authority to make ‘minor editorial changes’ to documents before publication.

The reason Elected Members do this is to allow for grammatical and formatting corrections to occur before publication. I do not edit or format the document myself – that is done by my employees who are vastly more talented in this area than I and I approve the changes as per Council’s resolution.

The dissolution of the Strategy Committee was a democratic decision by Elected Members, and therefore it is right that they have an opportunity to respond to your correspondent’s comments as well – I encourage you to ask them their opinion. However, I want to reassure you that Council’s strategies, plans and consultations will continue to be presented to Council albeit to other committees of Council as was the case before that committee being established.

Your commentator often writes from a false premise, makes connections where there are none and comes up with conspiracies that do not exist. Your continued campaign (as you publish it on your website) is mischievous and therefore I decline to comment.”

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Veronica Harrod continues —

‘The Horowhenua New Zealand Trust (HNZT) is the very trust that plans on undertaking projects associated with the growth strategy and the Levin Town Centre Plan that Mr Clapperton has delegated authority to make “minor editorial changes to.”

Central Levin showing development area around the town centre and Te Takere library complex.

A July 2017 Council report to the Strategy Committee makes clear the trust intends on being involved in big money projects including, “the Levin Town Centre, the provision of better water infrastructure and resources, the freeing up of land for residential, commercial and industrial construction.”

Another related development is that the same minutes of the 21 November, 2018 meeting show Council has voted in favour of looking to make a number of changes to Committee structures and to “discontinue” the Strategy Committee – the very committee that discusses all “growth” related and District Plan issues.

The question is why, when Council intends making a political and economic priority out of the “growth” related activities included in the two strategies, would the Council look to “discontinue” the only forum of Council where these matters are publicly discussed?

Some already say giving the chief executive delegated authority to make “minor editorial changes” to two of the most important strategies affecting the district for the next 20 years, especially in light of potential conflict of interest concerns, and looking to “discontinue” the very public forum where these matters are discussed are worrying signs.

There is more to come on how much ratepayer funding has already been transferred to the Horowhenua New Zealand Trust; and what a trust model funded by, “a mix of private equity, bank-sourced debt and possibly Council assets or equity” means for Horowhenua residents.

Just how much “Council assets or equity” does the Council intend transferring to the Trust?

I would like to reply to what almost amounts to defamation of my professional integrity by Horowhenua District Council’s chief executive David Clapperton.

I find Mr Clapperton’s statement that I write, “from a false premise, makes connections where there are none and comes up with conspiracies that do not exist” to be verging on defamatory. If what Mr Clapperton says is true then why has no action been taken against either the journalist or Kapiti Independent?

The reason why is that every single article contains quotes from Council documents. The documents are the proof of veracity.

In his answer Mr Clapperton has effectively managed to avoid answering every single question on how the Council intends on managing any potential conflict of interest concerns between his role as Council chief executive and his role assisting the establishment of the Horowhenua NZ Trust by concentrating on questioning the credibility of the journalist.

I am a journalist with over 25 years academic and practical experience in both traditional and new media. I have post graduate diploma of journalism and a Master of Communications.

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