As the Regional Council plays musical chairs, assigning 60% of chief executive Andrew Newman’s time to the HB Regional Investment Company to guide further development of the dam project, this ‘Situation Vacant’ notice has appeared on national political blogs like Whale Oil and Kiwiblog.

“In House Counsel Position
Campaigning Organisation
Based in Hawke’s Bay

A specialist campaigning business is seeking an in house counsel to help with campaigns against councils, government departments and political parties. The role is to ensure that these organisations obey the law, and are held to account if they do not.

The purpose of this role is holding the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to account, and ensuring they act lawfully.”

The notice continues, in part …

“Fearlessness will be a major positive attribute, and a willingness to take on tough cases. This is not a standard lawyer’s job, and will require flair and imagination and is not for the faint hearted.”

Applicants are instructed to inquire to either of the blogs.

Something tells me there won’t be too many HB lawyers lining up for this job. Around here, council business is the mother’s milk of lawyering. Can’t alienate that revenue stream.

Speaking of out-of-towners, rumour is that prominent Wellington lawyer/lobbyist Mai Chen is in discussions to represent Hawke’s Bay environmentalists in a legal challenge to the Regional Council’s handling of the dam project. As this DomPost article describes: “Her Public Law Toolbox is a textbook guide to the corridors of power for all the outsiders, the underdogs and the Josephine and Joe Citizens for whom the key to those corridors has always seemed elusively beyond their reach.”

Pit bull on the one hand; the ultimate insider on the other … if either of these materialise, the Regional Council will have its hands full.

Tom Belford

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5 Comments

  1. I have serious reservations, and concerns, about 60% of Andrew Newman’s time being spent as CE of the HB Regional Investment company. Either he is CEO of the HBRC or CE of the Regional Investment company, but I think that being in charge of both represents a major conflict of interest (for a number of reasons, but the main two being transparency and accountability). I am certainly not doubting Andrew’s integrity, but Andrew himself should have turned down the role of CE of the HB Regional Investment Company at a time when his role in the promotion of the Ruataniwha water storage scheme is being called into question by many right across the political spectrum. Do others agree or am I being harsh?

  2. It is a relief to see this conflict of interest being debated openly in the political arena.

    I am confident many share the concerns you have raised.

  3. On happenings of the past…………………..do you honestly believe the HB RC elected representitives will take any notice of public concerns…………yeh right!

    David Bosley

  4. Hi Stuart – I think your concerns are certainly valid.
    At the time the Investment Company (HBRIC) was established , its function, structure and membership, were not well communicated, nor understood, by the wider community.

    A number of real concerns were raised at the time, particularly given that research suggested the proposed structure and membership were considered ill-advised for such an entity. At the time, these issues were dismissed with the following explanations:

    1. “It is an ‘interim’ board only” – membership, structure, and relationships would form the basis of a formal process to determine the most appropriate board and management by Dec 2012 (later changed to 2013/14)

    2. “The CE, Chair and 2 councillors appointed to the board means there will be savings in salary/fees” (We were told)- not sure if this is still the case, but to declare such prudence as a reason to self-appoint is a wee bit of a joke given the $5m+ of ratepayers money spent to date on consultants and feasibility studies. Not to mention that a project of this magnitude actually requires a tad more fiscal and professional savvy than saving meeting fees!

    3. “Appointing CE of Regional Council to CE of the Investment Co. will provide continuity over the transition period to the new board”……. ? not sure when that changed or who decided that the CE Regional Council was suitably qualified to run an investment company, as well as a project of national significance; as well as keeping 40% of an eye on the Regional Council.

    Don’t hold your breath on Transparency and Accountability! We are no longer privy to decisions, or the decision-making process of HBRIC. This is commercially sensitive and not open to public scrutiny. (Although I understand we will get a report at least annually)

    Cheers!

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