Shadow boxing with the public on development in Horowhenua
By Veronica Harrod
Last week Kapiti Independent News revealed that Horowhenua District Council removed a webpage that included information about the council’s economic development board after it received an Official Information Act request for minutes of board meetings held in 2016 and 2017.
It was also revealed residents and ratepayers were not consulted on the Horowhenua’s economic development 2014-2017 strategy or the 2008 Horowhenua Development Plan despite the fact both documents continue to have a disproportionate amount of power and influence over decisions made by council.
So who are the main players in this tail wagging the dog political environment?
Development in the shade
The shadows who prefer to maintain secrecy about decisions they are making as a board to such an extent that council clearly agreed to remove information about them from the council website.
The only public face is economic development board chair Cameron Lewis, a director on the board of local asparagus grower Tendertips. He is often quoted in council press releases extolling “growth” happening in the district despite the fact the majority of “growth” indicators are forecasted, estimated and expected not growth in real or actual terms. But the “growth” rhetoric advances the land development agenda of council which is why it is so convenient.
Second cab off the rank is economic development board deputy chair Wayne Bishop who has multi-million dollar land and property development interests across New Zealand and in Horowhenua. It appears to be his job to ensure the economic development strategy gains momentum around the council table which he is clearly very effective at doing as his appointment to the role of deputy mayor confirms.
He essentially has eight of the ten councillors on-side and troubleshoots for the board when required which he is also very effective at doing.
Helped by cancellation of development contributions
Although he is in public office he is projected to financially benefit by the cancellation of development contributions in 2015, which the economic development strategy recommended be reviewed, by at least $2 million based on estimated figures of $15,000 per new build including $750,000 from the projected 500 house sub-division Speldhurst Country Estate in Kimberley Road alone.
Although those standing for public office are not supposed to financially benefit from political decisions — doing so has a name we are not allowed to publicly state for some reason– yet this behaviour is not only tolerated but accepted.
Also on the board is Levana chief executive Andy Wynne, advertising and digital media executive Antony Young who formerly worked as Asia regional director for Saatchi & Saatchi, Horowhenua district councillor and Horowhenua Learning Centre operations manager Barry Judd, engineering company Stevensons Group managing director Evan Kroll, Ellison Group investment company managing director Larry Ellison of Foxton, Horowhenua councillor Piri-Hira Tukapua and managing director of Turk’s Poultry in Foxton Ron Turk.
While deputy chair of the board and council’s deputy mayor Wayne Bishop appears to be the economic development board’s inside man controlling governance issues council’s chief executive David Clapperton appears to act as the economic development board’s inside man controlling operational and management issues.
The fractious and obstructive relationship he has with Mayor Feyen indicates he remains committed to the task he’s been delegated.
But a political environment where the tail wags the dog makes Horowhenua look more like it is governed by an oligarchy — where the few have taken control of an organisation — rather than a democracy which is why this increasingly out of control juggernaut needs to be challenged at the highest levels