Here’s why citizens don’t trust councils. It’s the history of my requests to get information from the Hastings Council regarding their case for the proposed regional sports park.

Set aside, for the moment, that the Council’s legal responsibility is to give ratepayers real options on important matters like this, not simply propaganda for their pre-determined course of action. The Council put itself irrevocably in the sports park cheerleader role over a year ago. Mayor Yule and certain Councillors have been waving their pom-poms enthusiastically ever since.

So OK then, HDC, I’ve asked, show us your case … pull back the curtain. Effectively the Council has replied, “Buzz off!” Fortunately — but perhaps too late to shed any light — the Ombudsman has decided to investigate.

Meantime, here’s the two-month chronology to date of HDC’s response to my information requests.

Information Denials – Regional Sports Park

April 15 Requested copies of monthly reports given by Kelt Capital to HDC re progressing of sports park.
April 21 Request for Kelt reports denied via email from Jessica Soutar Barron, HDC communications staffer.
April 27 Requested copy of HDC contract re sport park with Kelt Capital, as well as confirmation that public tendering process was used.
May 1 Filed complaint re Kelt reports denial with Ombudsmen Office.
May 14 Via BayBuzz article, proposed public meeting to be facilitated by HDC between community leaders (skeptics re RSP) and various consultants retained by HDC/Kelt to address RSP issues
May 21 Denied copy of Kelt contract (portions excerpted in denial letter from HDC CEO, raising additional issues); told “Council decided” to skip the public tendering process because of Kelt’s unique qualifications.
May 23 Formally requested Mayor Yule to arrange community leaders’ meeting with RSP consultants, with stated support of seven Councillors.
May 24 Responded to Mayor Yule request for more information regarding proposed community leaders meeting.
May 27 Amended complaint to Ombudsmen Office to include denial of Kelt contract with HDC.
May 27 Requested copy of additional information assembled by consultant Murray McCaw to document operating and financial projections for RSP
May 29
Received hard copy of April 4, four-page letter from McCaw summarising operational cost/revenue assumptions for RSP (but no supporting data or analysis).
May 30 Mayor Yule, reflecting a vote of Council, rejects community leaders meeting request. [Imagine, Council needs to debate and vote on a request to provide access to its own consultants!]
June 1 Requested further information re McCaw projections and time to review this material in HDC offices (assuming they’d balk at actually sending me the data).
June 3 Received email from Jessica Soutar Barron querying if I wanted to meet with HDC finance chief Ross Franklin re RSP financial data.
June 3 Replied YES!
June 9 Having received no reply to June 3 email, re-forwarded request for meeting with Ross Franklin.
June 10 Received email from Jessica Soutar Barron (sent 4:51 p.m – i.e., COB, so we lose another day) indicating that my request for back-up information supporting the McCaw projections was “too broad” and needed clarification.
June 10 I replied immediately upon seeing the email (i.e., about 6:05p.m.) re-stating my request and its rationale, and emphasizing the obvious time urgency.
June 13 As of COB Friday, with no time left before submission hearings, no reply from HDC.
June 13 Received letter from Ombudsman David McGee, saying:

“I am willing to investigate your complaint, and as the first step in my investigation I have asked the Chief Executive for a report … I have noted that you are seeking the information in relation to a public consultation process, and accordingly I have asked the Council to respond to me with urgency.”

It shouldn’t have to be this hard!

Tom

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5 Comments

  1. I have just received your Bay Buzz Digest in the letterbox.

    It is wonderful that I am not the only one in Hawkes Bay that does not trust what the council is doing with the new Sports Park, and does not trust that prick Sam Kelt.

    I have put in a written submission against stages 2 and 3 of the Park, but am not holding my breath that it will get noticed.

    Also voted against getting rid of Nelson Park in the first place, but they did that anyway after holding enough votes to get the answer they wanted.

    I am secretary for the local swimming club in Havelock. There is never enough council money to do what needs to be done there, and we are always having to apply for grants from community charities to help get things done. No doubt it is the same for other small sports facilities in the area.

  2. 15 June 2008

    Well done Tom.

    Trust me, it gets worse.

    Local Bodies in this democracy also collude with staff (when the staff agree) to derail public opinion when both the elected represenatives and the staff, want an unpopular objective.

    Arrogant, yes. Above the law, they make the law. Rotten to the core, definately. Will one man stand up against the odds, such a man will be removed. How to stop them, remove the Local Bodies Commission, who cover/condone for all.

  3. My experience of extracting information from HDC mirrors Tom's.

    5 emails to the CEO remain unanswered. He has never replied eventhough Murray McCaw & Sean Bevin said it was the CEO not them who had the authority to disclose Event Frequency Data. The whole process of the RSP stinks of ineptitude and secrecy. It's time Yule & sychophantic supporters in Council like Bowers were given the shove. Bring it on!

  4. As a former NCC councillor. I fully endorse and agree with the views expressed by Mr Brian Duggan. From my own experiances. The culture of the Napier City Council is inheritantly Not people friendly. By way of example, expecting a big turn- out of Pirimai residents, to its Annual Draft Plan public submissions, I understand it was decided to hear public submissions in councils small committee room, not the usual council chambers. And any attempt at extractracting, what should be readily available, straight forward information, from its current "controller" CEO Mr Taylor, is akin to pulling chickens teeth! Without people what would you have?

    And from what I have seen in Council Agenda's the majority of elected members seriously believe they are making the policy, when they are mostly with, the exception of two or three, simplly compliantly rubber stamping councill officers/ CEO's, mayors reccomendations-none of their own.

    Regardless of signing a Council Code of Conduct. And most people know what happened to me for daring to speak the truth! New boy on the block, Cr Dalton, appears to have the same or similar hold over Mayor Arnott, as his "best friend" and mentor former Cr JJ Harrison. In that Cr Dalton is also allowed to go unchecked bad mouthing anyone he wishes on his website and radio program.

    And I thought the rules should be the same for everyone-no way.

  5. For the people by the people – a lot of people at the council forget one thing – they are employed by the ratepayer, they have a responsibility to serve the people, it matters not what the issue is, the paramount point is they are there to serve, self interest and ego, or is it gross inefficiency or complacency have no place when you are a public servant.

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