Horowhenua Public Assets Up For Grabs?

Levin, heart of the Horowhenua, where public assets are under threat of transfer without consultation

‘Gone by dinner time!’ could become fact in Horowhenua if public assets are transferred by the District Council.

KIN’s Horowhenua correspondent Veronica Harrod says a decision on whether to transfer up to 40 percent of public assets owned by Horowhenua District Council to the recently named Horowhenua NZ Trust will be made at a council meeting on June 6, according to a well-placed local government source.

KIN understands no consultation is planned before the decision is made.

Mayor says transparency needed

Horowhenua Mayor Michael Feyen — ‘more transparency needed’

But Mayor Michael Feyen says: “In my opinion this council is is no position to make decisions about the transfer of ownership to the Trust until it’s clearer what the Trust is doing. We need more transparency and independent information,

“I don’t think the implications are understood by council and less by iwi. If private ownership is conferred on public assets they can’t be part of an iwi claim or treaty settlement which is a big concern.”

Money for seed capital

Late last year Council announced in a report on the Trust and in a council press release an intention to transfer up to 40 per cent of public assets to the Trust for seed capital.

Horowhenua Chief Executive David Clapperton

In response to the question, “Is the council going to vote on transferring public assets to the Horowhenua New Zealand Trust next week” council’s chief executive David Clapperton said, “I’m just about to go into a meeting,” before hanging up the phone.

All further attempts for a comment from Mr Clapperton and the Council’s communications team have been ignored.

Mayor takes a principled stand

Mayor Feyen named the Eastland Community Trust set up by Gisborne District Council as an example of an excellent Trust model due to the independence of directors.

But Council’s economic development manager Shanon Grainger said the Trust model was, “explicitly detached from local government so that local government politicians are not compromised, and investors are not compromised.”

Shanon Grainger

He said examples of public assets to be transferred, “include commercial/industrial buildings and land, rural leases (grazing land), land purchased for infrastructure projects that is no longer needed, and so forth.”

Directors of the Horowhenua NZ Trust are members of council’s in-house economic development board, but information on whether directors also include three councillors on the board is not yet publicly available.

Economic development board members with multi-million dollar interests in land and property development and construction are involved.

They include Deputy Mayor (and property developer) Councillor Wayne Bishop; as well as  Stevensons managing director Evan Kroll whose engineering company is involved in construction in the lower North Island.

Influential position

Horowhenua Deputy Mayor Wayne Bishop

Cr Bishop is in an influential position as deputy mayor and deputy chair of the Economic Development Board.

The Horowhenua New Zealand Trust is not legally registered yet which means the public do not have access to who the directors are, the Trust deed or how the process of transferring up to 40 percent of publicly owned assets to the Trust will be managed.

Update 1 June. Another matter, just as explosive (story following on this matter too), may be the publicly excluded item to be discussed by Horowhenua District Council on 6 June. However, I maintain the basic tenor of the article is accurate as it refers to the problems of the commercial confidentiality clause being used by council to have private discussions on matters the public can have a right to know 😉

It is the role and the right of the Mayor, as Chair of Council to decide what business goes onto the meeting agendas and what business does not go on an agenda. Mr Chair, I would suggest this item not be accepted onto any agenda until governance fully understands the implications and are fully comfortable with the strategic direction this decision is going in. Divulging of public assets is a last resort, for any council, in any circumstances. Council Management keep the ship moving, but it is Governance, lead by the Mayor who decide where the ship is going, No one else can set the strategic direction of HDC.


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