TDC mayor cleared of con­flict over dam


Tas­man mayor Richard Kempthorne has no fi­nan­cial con­flict of in­ter­est in the pro­posed Waimea dam, The Au­di­tor­Gen­eral has found

‘‘His in­ter­est is in com­mon with the pub­lic and he is not pro­hib­ited from par­tic­i­pat­ing in coun­cil dis­cus­sions or vot­ing on mat­ters re­lat­ing to the Waimea dam pro­posal,’’ a let­ter from the Of­fice of the Au­di­tor Gen­eral (OAG) says.

Kempthorne said he was not sur­prised by the find­ing.

‘‘There was noth­ing in [al­le­ga­tions],’’ he said.

The let­ter comes after the OAG re­ceived a com­plaint from a ratepayer about Kempthorne cast­ing a de­cid­ing vote on a coun­cil de­ci­sion about the pro­posed dam.

In the let­ter, signed by Me­lanie Webb, as­sis­tant Au­di­tor-Gen­eral, le­gal, it says the ratepayer is con­cerned the mayor has an un­de­clared con­flict of in­ter­est be­cause of his in­volve­ment in hor­ti­cul­ture.

‘‘The ratepayer’s view is that the main pur­pose of the pro­posed dam is to sup­ply wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion, pri­mar­ily hor­ti­cul­ture,’’ the let­ter says.

Claims from the ratepayer were that Kempthorne: has pre­vi­ously been the head of Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ and has held other po­si­tions in it or its en­ti­ties; has not de­clared his Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ po­si­tion on the coun­cil’s in­ter­ests reg­is­ter; has a link to Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ on his web­site; has de­clared an in­ter­est in a fam­ily in­her­i­tance, pre­sumed to be an ap­ple or­chard be­cause his fam­ily owns hor­ti­cul­tural blocks.

The OAG sought in­for­ma­tion via the coun­cil in re­sponse to the com­plaints. That in­for­ma­tion ex­plained that: Kempthorne and his wife owned an or­chard at Ap­pleby from 1980 un­til 2001; dur­ing that time, he be­came a direc­tor of the NZ Fruit­grow­ers Fed­er­a­tion and a mem­ber, and even­tu­ally the it chair­man, of the NZ Agri­chem­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion Trust; he was an in­terim direc­tor of Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ when the NZ Fruit­grow­ers Fed­er­a­tion and VegFed were com­bined.

‘‘The po­si­tions mayor Kempthorne held in the NZ Fruit­grow­ers Fed­er­a­tion and his in­terim di­rec­tor­ship in Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ ended around 14 years ago,’’ the OAG let­ter says.

‘‘In our view, these his­toric roles do not cre­ate is­sues of con­flict for the mayor in his present role.’’

The coun­cil’s Elected Mem­bers In­ter­ests Reg­is­ter shows Kempthorne has own­er­ship in­ter­ests in two prop­er­ties in Tas­man dis­trict – a fam­ily es­tate prop­erty at Eves Val­ley and his pri­mary res­i­dence at Rich­mond.

In the let­ter, Webb says the Eves Val­ley prop­erty has no con­nec­tion to the Waimea Plains and the trust will not be pur­chas­ing wa­ter from the dam.

‘‘If this land can­not use wa­ter from the pro­posed dam, it cre­ates no fi­nan­cial in­ter­est for the mayor in the dam pro­posal’’.

How­ever, as an ur­ban wa­ter user, Kempthorne will ben­e­fit from the dam along with all house­holds con­nected to the ur­ban sup­ply net­work that is sourced from the Waimea catch­ment.

Coun­cil ad­vice in­di­cated Kempthorne’s in­ter­est in the Rich­mond prop­erty put him in a group with four coun­cil­lors and about 6481 ratepay­ers who are within the ‘‘zone of ben­e­fit’’ for the pro­posed dam and part of an ur­ban ‘‘wa­ter club’’.

‘‘In these cir­cum­stances, it seems likely that the mayor’s in­ter­est in the Waimea dam pro­posal will be the same as all the other ratepay­ers sim­i­larly af­fected,’’ the OAG let­ter says.

Mean­while, work by the OAG con­tin­ues on an ear­lier com­plaint al­leg­ing Cr Kit Mal­ing has a con­flict of in­ter­est over the dam pro­ject.


Nel­son City Coun­cil­lor Kate Ful­ton down at the new Farmers’ Market site.

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