Horowhenua ‘Conflict of Interest’

Labour’s Civil Defence spokesperson, MP Clare Curran

Labour’s Clare Curran deplores joint role of Councillor

By our Horowhenua correspondent, Veronica Harrod, in Levin

Horowhenua District councillor Ross Brannigan’s role as an emergency management officer for the Horizons Regional Council has been described as “a conflict of interest” by Labour Party spokesperson Clare Curran,.

At a public meeting in Levin yesterday, she said: “A civil defence role is an operational role which requires a lot of co-ordination and trust to act quickly.
“The mayor of an area calls a civil defence emergency, and the civil defence controller manages it. But if that person has
another governance role, that is a conflict of interest and I will be raising the matter with TAG,” ( a Technical Advisory Group overseeing the recently set up Earthquake Readiness National Inquiry).

The Inquiry aims to identify where improvements can be made in the Civil Defence structure,  in the wake of shortcomings highlighted by recent emergencies, including the Kaikoura earthquake and Port Hills.

TAG is expected to report back to Otaki MP Nathan Guy who was recently appointed to the role of Civil Defence Minister.

The meeting, organised by the Horowhenua District Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc (HDRRAI), invited Ms Curran to say how Horowhenua residents could take part in the inquiry.

Concern about ability to respond

Participants expressed several concerns about the district’s ability to respond in the wake of an increasing number of natural disasters the
country as a whole.

Although Mayor Michael Feyen and councillors Ross Campbelland Piri-Hira Tukapua  attended the meeting, Councillor Ross

Cr Ross Brannigan

Brannigan, who has the dual role of local councillor and Regional-Council-employed emergency management officer, was specifically ordered to stay away from the public meeting by Horizon’s emergency management office Ian Lowe.

In an email response to HDRRAI chairperson Christine Moriarty, Mr Lowe said, “it would not be appropriate for Ross as an officer of Horizons to be publicly speaking on behalf of either Horizons or the Horowhenua District Council on high level civil defence matters such as the proposed ministerial review of Civil Defence.”

“As Ross’s manager I do not endorse him attending the meeting on the 21st May as a representative of Horizons as
you have requested. If however Ross wished to attend solely in his capacity as a Horowhenua District Councillor, outside
his role of an employee of Horizons, then that is entirely up to him.

Ms Moriarty said Mr Lowe’s response is a typical of the kind of disorganisation that the high level Earthquake Readiness
National Inquiry has been established to address.

“In the first instance Mr Lowe states it isn’t appropriate for councillor Brannigan to attend on behalf of Horizon’s or
Horowhenua District Council and on the other hand he is saying he can attend as a councillor.

“You can’t have it both ways and I agree with Ms Curran that Cr Brannigan’s dual role is a conflict of interest.”

Compounding the concern expressed by Ms Moriarty is the lack of trust between Mayor Michael Feyen who would be calling a
Civil Defence emergency and councillor Ross Brannigan who would have an operational role in responding to a civil defence emergency.

Vote against engineering reports on quakes

Councillor Brannigan was one of the nine councillors who voted against council spending any more money on engineering
reports into the earthquake readiness of the Horowhenua District Council building.

He also put his name to an advertisement stating the council building is safe for “normal occupancy” even though no peer review of the three conflicting engineering reports has yet been undertaken by council.

Ms Curran is expected to report back to HDRRAI on the inquiry’s response to local concerns about councillor
Brannigan’s dual roles.

“The conflict of interest and lack of trust that exists would in all likelihood have an extremely detrimental affect
on the district’s ability to effectively and appropriately respond to a natural disaster and that could have potentially fatal consequences,” said Ms Moriarty.

When searching for information about Civil Emergencies in the Horowhenua recently residents were told that no plans are rubber stamped for action if and when required. Instead, we were advised by a council employee to look on their facebook page after the fact for information regarding emergency shelters etc… how are we suppose to do that in an emergency when 9 out of 10 times the power is out and facebook would not be accessible. CRAZY PLAN. Also as stated in the article with the level of non-compliance to the elected Mayor who knows if any Officer in Council would obey any directive given by the Mayor in declaring an emergency etc. again CRAZY situation. The councillors must get behind the duly elected Mayor for the sake of the residents of Horowhenua who VOTED him into that position.

When Councils were elected to “look after” their BOROUGH, it was a team effort. Then “CENTRALIZING” came along, and parts of the designated region felt “left out” …..Now, Councils are “registered” as Companies, and the “focus” is on MONEY.
TOO MANY PEOPLE have more interest in their own “agendas” than in the issues of the people they were voted in to represent.
TOO MANY are wearing too many “hats”, and the understanding of “CONFLICT OF INTEREST” have been hidden behind shrouds of secrecy ….
A COMPLETE review and overhaul of the “system” is sorely needed, and ACCOUNTABILITY to the Residents/Rate-payers is a vital requirement. Businessmen & Shop-owners are NOT the Stake-holders of ANY REGION – the people who reside there are!
A closer look at who’s PROFITING (financially) by the decisions being made on behalf of the constituents should be made, and exposed to the public.
NO MORE “OBSCURE” dealings; open & honest discussion MUST come back!