Veronica Harrod reports that two strategies about political and economic priorities of Horowhenua District Council for the next 20 years are still not publicly available on the Council’s website — almost two months after being adopted.
But while ratepayers miss out on information, CEO David Clapperton has been given unusual new powers.
Ombudsman rapped HDC over the knuckles
The strategies were adopted by Council in November 2018 one week after Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier found the Council failed to adhere to principles of “transparency, accountability and fairness” after emails were diverted to Council’s chief executive David Clapperton – some without the sender’s knowledge.
The two strategies include the Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040, on Council’s extensive land and property development plans, and The Levin Town Centre Strategy called “Transforming Taitoko/Levin.”
Unusually, councillors also voted in favour of Mr Clapperton having delegated authority to make what is referred to as, “minor editorial changes” to the strategies even after the copies presented at the Council meeting were adopted in the first instance.
Council makes the statement in The Levin Town Centre Strategy that, “no funding was assigned to implementing this Strategy. Council will not be funding all of the projects. Other parties, such as private investors and central government, will need to contribute financially.”
Sweeping powers for non-elected Trust
As a report to the July 2017 Strategy Committee makes clear the Horowhenua New Zealand Trust is expected to be involved in managing, “Local projects such as the Levin Town Centre, the provision of better water infrastructure and resources, the freeing up of land for residential, commercial and industrial construction.”
The July 2017 report says, “Those companies operate on standard commercial terms governed by a commercial board of directors using a mix of private equity, bank-sourced debt and possibly Council assets or equity” which is the funding model for the Levin Town Centre Strategy.
Council also says land it owns in the Central Business District (CBD) “could be sold to provide funds to” complete The Levin Town Centre Strategy in stages over at least the next eight years.
The main objectives include new commercial development near to the main street of Oxford Street “in new laneways” and commercial development west of Oxford Street. The “new laneways” are expected to be created as a result of demolition of earthquake-prone buildings on Oxford Street ‘between the lights’ that are not replaced.
The Council report on establishing the Horowhenua New Zealand T rust (HNZT) says, “Meeting the requirements of the legislation and consequent obligations (public and private) arising from national Earthquake Prone Building policy….involve potentially large sums of money and considerable economic opportunity.”
Six members of the former Economic Development Board are trustees of the HNZT including former chair Cameron Lewis, Antony Young, Evan Kroll, Andrew Wynn, Ron Turk and Larry Ellison.
(Note: The two policies missing from the websitr should be in the Plans and Strategies section )