How the Hastings District Council performs in its relationships with the business sector is a costly burden on ratepayers and can be justifiably described as ‘corporate welfare.’
In the Environment Court judgment on the Kidnappers case in December 2004 Judge Thompson said:
“To a degree the members of the Court have not previously experienced, the Council adopted an uncompromisingly partisan stance in support of the Applicant’s position.”
He was referring to way in which the Council abandoned any semblance of impartiality in wholeheartedly supporting Julian Robinson’s Lodge proposal. It’s easy to see why. One the world’s wealthiest men was making an enormous investment in Hawke’s Bay and they didn’t want to upset him.
As it turned out the Council did Julian Robinson a great disservice by not following reasonable protocols, and he showed he’s not easily upset by continuing to create a world glass golf course facility.
Judge Thompson’s phrase, ‘uncompromisingly partisan stance,’ identified a culture within the HDC which is driven not by process, but by predetermined outcomes. And the outcomes are set not by Council, but by businessmen.
The next time Hastings District Council appeared to take an ‘uncompromisingly partisan stance’ was in cosponsoring the charrette on Ocean Beach in November 2005 where it was obvious that Andy Lowe and Council were deeply imbedded. Three million dollars is a fair estimate of how much this relationship has cost the ratepayer so far, money that need not have been spent in supporting Andy’s development plans.
In my 2006 LTCCP submission I opened by saying:
“The concern I bring is that this Council appears to be engaging in corporate welfare – that is this Council appears to be supporting business sector interests at the expense of the public amenity and at the same time compromising its ability to appear as a fair and reasonable adjudicator when interests clash.”
I was referring to Ocean Beach and the proposed sale of Nelson Park.
HDC were spending up large in the lead up to the referendum on Nelson Park with a persuasion campaign containing elements which were disingenuous and often dishonest. Once again they were ‘adopting an uncompromisingly partisan stance.’ Clearly a faction within Council were determined to sell Nelson Park and would employ extreme means to influence public opinion.
If patterns were being repeated one of the threads was not as immediately obvious as Kidnappers and Ocean Beach. Who’s business interests were being served?
That became clear two weeks before the referendum closed when the HB Today headlined with: ‘Kelt gives $1m for sports park.’
It’s hard to talk about the proposed Regional Sports Park without mentioning the name Sam Kelt. And herein lies a problem.
Sam is Hawke’s Bay’s most prominent benefactor. His entrepreneurial skills have seen the Spring Racing Carnival become a prestigious international event, and the Horse of the Year has received accolades from top European judges. The Magpies are winning again. His determination has generated millions into our economy through the visitor dollar, and the Kelt Capital logo is everywhere.
The impression that Sam puts up all the money is not true however. Generally he organises the sponsorship and takes the naming rights.
Aspects of the sale of Nelson Park and planning of the RSP indicate a relationship between Sam Kelt and the Hastings District Council which is not transparent, but to question the integrity of that relationship boarders on heresy given Sam’s high profile.
It is, however, the right of all citizens of Hastings District to know how our rates are being spent, and how management of Council business is conducted.
How much Sam Kelt was involved in the sale of Nelson Park is unclear, but what is known is that he bought properties in Alexandra Crescent adjacent to the park.
Sam’s involvement in the Regional Sports Park is abundantly clear.
“Mr Kelt, a billionaire merchant banker, has asked the Hastings District Council to consider his company to manage the $35 million project proposed for Percival Road.
Kelt Capital’s role would include obtaining funding and sponsorship, and perhaps helping clubs who want to relocate to the regional site to sell their assets.
Kelt Capital’s plan for the park will be put to the council in about two weeks when a decision will be made whether to accept the proposal.
If it was accepted, Mr Kelt said, he wanted to begin promoting the park immediately, taking into consideration the outcome of the Nelson Park referendum.
“We can work out the commerce of this project and build a business into it … there will be business opportunities there,” Mr Kelt said.” (HB Today – 26.10.2006)
And this is how HDC Mayor Lawrence Yule responded:
“If Kelt Capital was not accepted, the council would have to look at other consultants to manage the project.
Here we have a business in our backyard, Kelt Capital, which has a proven record and it would be far better than having someone from Auckland to do the job.”
Clearly Mr Kelt and the Mayor have an arrangement.
Mr Yule confirmed Kelt Capital would be paid for its work on the project, pending the council’s approval.
“The project would take time and wrap the company’s resources and “if we do that on a zero basis, we’ll go broke,” Mr Kelt said.”
There’s no doubt Mr Kelt is driving the process and Mayor Yule’s partisanship is absolute.
The timing of this press release two weeks before the referendum closed is not incidental. Given the high profile of Kelt Capital ‘sponsorship’ and image of ‘success’ many voters might have been persuaded to follow the ‘sure bet.’
However, what many voters did not realise was that voting ‘yes’ would be taken as a mandate by Council, not only to sell the park and replace the athletic facilities, but also to build the RSP at our expense, creating a financial burden for decades to come.
The Hastings District Council does not have a mandate to build the RSP. With nearly $100 million debt, ever increasing rates burden, and an uncertain economic future, the people of Hastings have a right to question the common-sense of undertaking a capital project of $50 million, much of which we will have to pay for, and maintain.
[To be continued …]