The Illusion of Democracy – Horowhenua District Council is Rolling its new Deputy Mayor and Won’t be Opening The Books … What’s to Hide?

The recent Local Government elections saw Horowhenua District Council with a new Mayor, former Cr Michael Feyen who selected new Deputy Mayor, Ross Campbell. Perhaps indicative of HDC’s current stance, the powhiri and swearing in was only briefly featured on HDC’s web pages, clearly not ecstatic about the voters’ choice. And the announcement to roll the new deputy came two days ago when Mayor Feyen stated on his FB page he’d received an email stating that …

 “all … Councilors have decided now they do not want Cr Ross Campbell as the Deputy Mayor…”

Horowhenua’s new Mayor Michael Feyen speaks about the cool reception he’s been given as new Mayor & describes how no justification has been offered for rolling his Deputy (apologies for video quality).

This all comes as no surprise given the turbulent history we’ve seen with this Council. Both councilors were ostracized historically for their insistence on truth and openness in Council dealings. Mayor Feyen, when a councilor, regularly posted videos on line exposing the pollution of Horowhenua and Manawatu waterways by both Council’s and local industry’s shoddy practices, saying HDC was a “top drawer polluter”. (See that video here plus his filming of Landcorp’s negligent practices).
Cr Campbell was vilified for filming the discharge of raw sewage into Shannon’s waterways, earlier this year (all denied by Council), and was physically assaulted in 2004 in relation to similar activity.

“Toe the line and deny any pollution by the HDC” the clear message given by HDC

His accomplice in his most recent capturing of evidence this year, was also physically assaulted and kicked, making headline news. For more info on those somewhat intriguing and surreal events go here. Basically, according to former Councilor Mrs Anne Hunt, the HDC has a culture of bullying Crs into denying Council’s role in polluting the waterways, that aside from telling its councilors how to vote. (See here also).

Other Issues

There are other issues these two have made known they are not happy about, like the relatively new council building that has large cracks in the basement. (CE Clapperton and the HDC establishment insist this is safe citing two prior reports done at the cost of some $135K). Mayor Feyen has ordered another independent inspection that he’s stated he is willing to resource himself if necessary. Then there’s the issue that HDC was instrumental in the decision to issue a third liquor license that Shannon locals did not want. More to come on that one. And the issue that HDC appear to not be consulting the public as thoroughly as they claim, witness the recent moving-of-the-Foxton cenotaph issue and the sale of the community housing stock. Finally, on the building cracks, HDC announced following the recent major quake on 13th November that there are no additional cracks … contrary to Mayor Feyen’s mention in his video update early on the morning after the quake that there were now more cracks. Perhaps quite aptly, as Alice in Wonderland would say, it’s all getting ‘curiouser and curiouser’. The new building was only opened in 2007, and it has large cracks in the basement … is this the new norm?

Note: this council, like many in NZ now, pay mere lip service to the nice sounding ‘sustainable development’ rhetoric that their websites are replete with, reflecting the UN’s forward thinking plan Agenda 21 which is not all that it seems. Under its watch NZ’s rivers have become 60 percent 14484651_1472593802754892_3596900895775183479_nunswimmable. Sustainable? Perhaps for corporate pockets but not for the environment. From the time councils were corporatised ie following Rogernomics in the late 1980s, they have masqueraded as democracies where in fact they are running on a business model (all registered at Dun and Bradstreet’s website). Right now, although the Mayor was voted in by the people, nevertheless the council appears to have him effectively hamstrung. At their first Council meeting following the election, the proposal to open the council’s books, and to not sell the community housing stock, were … as per usual … voted against by all except the Mayor and his new Deputy.

HDC has $100 Million Debt

As noted, Mayor Michael Feyen asked for Council’s books to be opened.(Read minutes at this link – opening-the-books-Horowhenua- DC November-2016)  Both he and Cr Campbell have been long time critics of the level of debt the Council is in (in spite of a supposedly well qualified CE who is paid the handsome salary of $250K + for his services). Indicative of the apparent power he holds perhaps? (By comparison the Mayor is paid only $99K).  Pre corporate take over we had a town clerk who was only moderately rewarded and he kept the council out of debt.
Prior to the election HDC’s regime was vehemently denying the level of debt the Council was in (said by them to be $68 million not $100 million). They’ve argued on a pinhead over that level which somewhat detracts from the real issue here. Why is $68 million or even $1 million debt acceptable? Whatever happened to the time-tested strategy of not spending what you don’t have, as Cr Campbell is pointing out in his video here? We all know that the borrower is servant to the lender. Back in 2014 when he tried to highlight the fiscal mismanagement of Council, he was told by the Mayor at the time that his question was “not liked” and he “wouldn’t be spoken to again!” A curious response.

Cr Ross Campbell recently describing one of his many attempts at reigning in the borrowing by HDC into exorbitant debt … this one was in 2014

So, here we have a responsible Cr trying repeatedly (wasn’t his first time) to steer the Council in more prudent directions, being told to pretty much ‘sit down and shut up’. And the Council has currently voted to not open the books. One would have to ask, are they hiding something? Perhaps it is the alleged ‘insider trading’ that Cr Campbell refers to in this video …

Cr Campbell speaks out about the former Mayor’s Economic Development Committee … one he called an ‘Economic Advantage Committee’, being comprised of non-elected members. Read the full transcript at this link. 

Our Mayor … some of you might not know this … our mayor has formed a group of his closest business associates. They’re the people who he mixes with. And together with these associates there are developers, there are retailers, there are manufacturers, contractors, who have been selected by him. They’ve formed themselves into what we call an Economic Development Committee. That’s what the Council calls it but I actually call it an Economic Advantage Committee … over their competitors  …   Cr Ross Campbell

Clearly this non-elected group has quite a lot to lose from hereon in with such environmentally friendly leadership in charge. No small wonder Cr Campbell is being rolled.

So, what do these two democratically elected, yet supposedly ‘renegade’ representatives of Horowhenua voters want for our district? … ah …

  • Clean drinking water
  • A clean Lake Horowhenua (chronically polluted by previous Councils to the extent it could now kill a small child if ingested)
  • a commuter train service from Levin to Wellington
  • the retention of Horowhenua’s affordable community housing for the elderly
  • no debt
  • clean recreational waterways
  • true partnership with iwi
  • the closure of the leachate leaking Levin Landfill
  • a stop to pollution of our waterways
  • opening of the Council books … honesty & transparency
  • more public participation at Council

Mayor Feyen remains hopeful and positive … in his own words he concludes:

” I’m very very positive and I know I’ve been voted in to make change, to look at fixing the water, to look at fixing Lake Horowhenua, to look at removing the dump, to looking at our books, to having governance lead this area, so this is commuter trains … everything I got voted in for … I’m definitely looking for public support… that’s what you voted for and I’ll continue working for those things while I’m here as the Mayor. It would most definitely be easier with my current Deputy Mayor so I’ll just see what life serves me up … just keeping you informed like I promised we would do”. 

Please do share this information. Like our new leaders we also want honesty and transparency. We want our Council to support the leadership chosen by the voters and move our district forward in true sustainable development … and not the kind that merely fattens corporate purses. We voted for change.


There will be a protest against the selling of the community housing, and the

rolling of the new Deputy Mayor Cr Ross Campbell … outside the HDC building at 126 Oxford Street in Levin on Wednesday 7th December! A peaceful protest … but one that will send a clear message that those who voted for our current Mayor are not happy with what is happening. Please come and bring a placard if you can.

You will find updates or changes at the Facebook page, at the Nua on our own FB pages and our petition page here (see menu). 



8 thoughts on “The Illusion of Democracy – Horowhenua District Council is Rolling its new Deputy Mayor and Won’t be Opening The Books … What’s to Hide?”

  1. Why is standing up for what you, & those who elected you, believe in wrong? Why wont other Councillors support this new focus? How is a personality clash allowed to get in the way of democracy?

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