Horowhenua Mayoral Candidate’s Conflict of Interest Revealed

Horowhenua mayoral candidate and Levin Ward councillor Bernie Wanden’s conflict of interest under the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act is that his spouse is one of three new owners of a block of surplus land sold by the Council.

Bernie Wanden

The Legal Position

KIN correspondent Veronica Harrod reports that under the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act 1968) if a spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner is concerned or interested in a contract, an office holder is deemed to be concerned or interested in the contract.

She says a recently released certificate of title reveals the land underneath Horowhenua mayoral candidate Bernie Wanden’s business, sold by the council as surplus land, has been purchased by his spouse, sister-in-law and mother-in-law for a cut rate price.

Levin, heart of Horowhenua — just what is going on?

A new certificate of title dated 30 August, 2019 states that a fee simple title was transferred to Wynne Coulter, Diane Fowler and Sharon Wanden on 30 August, 2019.

Brief mention in minutes

Yet the minutes of the 11 September Council meeting only states, “Cr Wanden: Interest in one of the listed properties” as an explanation for Cr Wanden’s conflict when the land transfer was discussed around the Council table.

Council’s group manager corporate services Mark Lester said on an independent election candidate Facebook page that Cr Wanden declared a conflict of interest because he is “a tenant of one of the properties” that was offered up for sale.

Cr Wanden and his wife Sharon Wanden are company director’s of the business, Paper Plus and NZ Post, which is on the land sold by the Council at 201 Oxford Street.

Also not known is whether mayoral candidate Wanden declared a conflict of interest when the Council still owned the land underneath the business and confirmed a renewal of lease, “for a period of four consecutive terms of five years each, commencing 14 March 2016” with Cr Wanden’s mother-in-law Mrs Coulter at a Council meeting held on 19 July 2017.

Council’s website lacks details

Whether he did declare a conflict of interest cannot be confirmed because the Council has neither the minutes from the meeting or the video available on its official Council website.

The Council’s November 2015 Property Strategy argued that non-core surplus public land should be sold because, “the economic return realised from lease or use of the asset…may be of a ‘peppercorn’ nature or at 1% of land value (per annum).”

There are also questions whether the sale of non-core assets by Council should be rushed through Council one month prior to a local body election considering the level of public interest in this matter.

At the 11 September Council meeting it was decided chief executive David Clapperton, in consultation with Mayor Michael Feyen, should only attend to, “those matters that cannot reasonably wait until the first meeting of the new Council.”

Mayor Feyen not consulted

Horowhenua’s sitting Mayor Michael Feyen — not consulted

Incumbent mayor Feyen said Mr Clapperton did not consult him at all about the sale of non-core land demonstrating mayor Feyen’s continuing marginalisation from the seat of Council power.

Incumbent mayor Feyen said Mr Clapperton did not consult him at all about the sale of non-core land demonstrating mayor Feyen’s continuing marginalisation from the seat of Council power.

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