Council bias complaint
The controversy surrounding the chair of a Hurunui District Council debate over whether to purchase shares in the Hurunui Water Project came to a head Thursday when his position was challenged.
Councillor Dick Davison received a stay of execution from his remaining fellow councillors around the table, in light of a formal complaint from a newlyformed group of concerned Hurunui residents.
Nadia Maxwell, chair of He Tangata, said the group had serious concerns about the lack of transparency in the process.
With the mayor and deputy mayor out of all discussions relating to the HWP shares, as shareholders themselves, and a third councillor recusing herself over ties to the Amuri Irrigation Company, it was left up to councillor Davison to chair meetings pertaining to HWP, including recent submission hearings.
‘‘We strongly believe Cr Davison is not the right person for the role of chair, and would like to see him removed as chair for all future deliberations,’’ Maxwell said.
Maxwell said after attending the public meetings, the group was appalled by Davison’s clear bias, which was cemented when he promoted irrigation as having saved the district during a television interview last month.
Davison has long been a supporter of irrigation schemes, having been involved in the Amuri Irrigation Company as a shareholder for many years.
He also sits on the Central Plains Water Trust, established by the Christchurch City Council and the Selwyn District Council to hold the resource consents for the proposed irrigation scheme, although he pointed out this was the community watchdog and safeguard to ensure that the scheme complied with the consents which are held by the Trust, which was a completely separate entity.
The remaining five councillors ended up giving Davison a vote of confidence, in part because he had been up front about a potential perceived conflict of interest, and had no current involvement with AIC. He had sought advice of council CEO Hamish Dobbie at the time of his appointment to the position, and had been advised as he had no pecuniary interest or ongoing connection, he had no conflict.
Maxwell said the He Tangata group was disappointed so see Davison retain the chair. The discussion appeared to focus on his disclosure at the beginning of the process, rather than his commitment to keep an open mind throughout, she said.
The council is due to deliberate on the submissions on May 17, after which further information will be sought if required, and a decision made on whether to invest $500,000 of ratepayers’ money in the private HWP scheme. The council’s proposal is to purchase dry shares only, with the potential option to put more money in for wet shares in the future, subject to the availability of water.
Hurunui councillor Dick Davison is being accused of bias in his role as chair of discussions over the purchase of shares in the Hurunui Water Project.