Mayoral Candidate Keeps Mum in Horowhenua

Veronica Harrod reports that Horowhenua mayoral candidate Bernie Wanden is refusing to publicly comment on the exact nature of his conflict of interest as required by the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act.

Less than one month before the local body election’s Horowhenua District Council has sold the land under Cr Wanden’s business ‘Paper Plus’ in Levin’s Central Business District, and other land, as part of a disposal of non-core Council assets.

Mayoral candidate Victoria Kaye Simmons and Cr Ross Brannigan signed the electronic transfer of sale agreement’s.

But Cr Wanden has refused to publicly comment.

“I’m not answering any questions on that. If the Council want to release any information, that’s up to them.”

When asked why he couldn’t talk about the matter he said, “Because I’ve declared a conflict of interest. I can’t.”

He also denied there was any confusion about his conflict of interest.

The minutes of the 11 September Council meeting states, “Cr Wanden: Interest in one of the listed properties.”

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

“Councillor Bernie Wanden has not purchased one of these properties nor does he have a financial interest in any land or building on Oxford Street,” Mr Lester said.

Mr Lester has subsequently removed the comments he made.

Mr Lester also said the sale of prime real estate land on the main street of Levin was offered at a discounted price of up to 15 percent less than the registered market valuation, “to existing leaseholders who owned the buildings on the land.”

Quotable Values (QV) database lists the land value as $295,000. Local council’s provide land information to QV.

It is not known whether Cr Wanden declared a conflict of interest when the Council confirmed a renewal of its lease with Cr Wanden’s mother-in-law Winnie Joyce Coulter at the 19 July 2017 Council meeting, “for a period of four consecutive terms of five years each, commencing 14 March 2016.”

No minutes or video is available on the Council’s website from this meeting.

A Year 2000 certificate of title over the property and land at 201 Oxford Street names the Council and Mrs Coulter as owners.

Council’s Property Strategy 2015 states, the Council has an obligation under the Local Government Act to, “conduct its business in an open transparent, and democratically accountable manner; to make itself aware of, and have regard to, community views and to undertake commercial transactions in accordance with sound business practices.”

When a council CEO and certain councilors are land speculators that can’t be good for the interests of ratepayers. You just have to look at the Kimberly Road land that is being turned into a gated community with a land claim on it to see that…

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