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
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.