Horowhenua investigative journalist Veronica Harrod has been looking at apparent conflicts of interest within the Horowhenua District Council. At this link (from the website of the Office of the Auditor General) you will see the clear rules and guidelines around declaring conflicts of interest when representing your local Council. In brief:
“Under the Act, you cannot:
- enter into contracts with your local authority worth more than $25,000 in a financial year; or
- discuss or vote on matters before your authority in which you have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest, other than an interest in common with the public.”
READ MORE AT THE LINK.
Read Veronica’s article posted at her Facebook page:
15 January, 2020
New Levin Ward councillor Todd Isaacs already has a conflict of interest
Two councillors have a major financial stake in commercial property earmarked in the Levin Town Centre Strategy for development by Horowhenua District Council.
Fourth term councillor Wayne Bishop and new Levin Ward councillor Todd Isaacs are both directors and shareholders of property investment company Write Properties Ltd.
The 3032 square property, on the corner of Oxford Street and Queen Street West, purchased by Write Properties Ltd on 28 November 2014, is within an area referred to as, “a key east-west movement corridor” and “a new consolidated east-west town core” in the strategy adopted by the previous Council in November 2018.
Purchased for $900,000 five years ago the property now has a rateable value of $2.08 million.
Despite several references in the Levin Town Centre Strategy to developing new activities on the west side of town, where the property is, the Council minutes show that Cr Bishop did not declare a financial conflict of interest or remove himself from discussing or voting in favour of the Levin town strategy.
Office of the Auditor General advice says, “The Local Authorities (Members’ Interest) Act helps protect the integrity of local authority decision-making by ensuring that people are not affected by personal motives when they participate in local authority decision-making.”
New Levin Ward councillor Todd Isaacs said he didn’t tell voters in the October 2019 local body elections he has a financial interest in a major property earmarked for development by the Council because he, “didn’t have to.”
Whether the owners of the Queen Street West property will benefit from, “Opportunities for new activities and businesses to cluster around a transport hub located in the centre of town”, or whether the intention is to develop the Queen Street West site as the Horowhenua Integrated Transport Hub is not known at this stage.
Write Properties Ltd also owns a 1013 m2 property in the industrial sector of Levin at 33 Hokio Beach Road valued at $335,000 in 2016.
The other three shareholders of Write Properties Ltd are Corey Kennett, Justin Rangi and Callum Dunsmore.
New Horowhenua mayor Bernie Wanden also has a financial conflict of interest because he owns a business in Levin’s town centre, with his wife Sharon Wanden, that is built on land the Council sold to mayor Wanden’s wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law for a firesale price in a controversial sale one month before the local body elections last year.
The land had a rateable value of $295,000 when it was sold to mayor Wanden’s wife and her relations for $230,000.
This represents a 28 percent discount. At the time of the sale the public were told by the Council the discount was only 15 percent.
The Council is contracting the Horowhenua New Zealand Trust to undertake all the extensive – and yet to be funded – land and property development projects included in the Levin Town Centre Strategy and the Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040.
New Levin Ward councillor Todd Isaacs is refusing to provide evidence he had election campaign flyers printed by Levin digital printer The Old Foundry.
Cr Isaacs stated on his signed Return of Electoral Donations and Expenses form that he paid $1174.73 to The Old Foundry for flyers and signs.
But when Horowhenua district councillor Isaacs was asked to produce a copy of the flyer he said he didn’t have any because, “I only did 2000 and they were all delivered.”
He did not respond to a request for information about where his flyers were delivered.
The final election results published by the electoral officer Warwick Lampp
on 16 October said Cr Isaacs received 1718 votes.
Local Levin man Ian Tate was appointed deputy electoral officer but the 60 year old, who had worked for the Council in a variety of roles for almost 30 years, died suddenly at home on 28 August.
Despite the Local Electoral Act 2001 stating candidates “must” take all reasonable steps to keep records of all candidate election expenses, Cr Isaacs has remained silent to a request for any evidence he had the campaign material printed.
The Act also says candidates, “must keep invoices and receipts for all election expenses of $50 or more for three years after returns are filed.”
When The Old Foundry owner Rex Vizible was phoned to confirm Cr Isaacs had spent “$1700 odd dollars for flyers and signs for Cr Isaacs” he said, “Yep, I can” even though Cr Isaacs had spent $1174 and not $1700.
Mr Vizible, also known as music producer Brett Stephen Taylor, was convicted and jailed for sexually assaulting a 29 year old male friend in an alcohol fuelled attack on 18 July, 2006.
The victim was quoted in a Stuff news article saying, “People really do need to know who this guy is…for the safety of the community as well.”
Deputy mayor Jo Mason also paid Mr Vizible’s business $1451.42 for campaign material.
Ratepayer funds have also been paid to Mr Vizible’s business by the Council and Foxton Community Board for The Foxton Godwits installation.
The Old Foundry website also includes glowing testimonials from Canvasland Ltd, Crowe Construction and Associates Ltd, the internationally known Swazi Apparel and Cr Piri-Hira Tukapua.
But Cr Piri-Hira Tukapua did not avail herself of Mr Vizible’s services at the last election.
Since enquiries for this news story began The Old Foundry has been busy deleting information from its website on 20 and 21 January including removing the names of other recommendations from real estate agent PGA Wrightson and Repco.
A photo of a large banner advertising The Old Foundry in Levin was also removed.
The advertising banner was erected above the 3032 square property, on the corner of Oxford Street and Queen Street West, owned by Write Properties Ltd.
Cr Isaacs and Cr Wayne Bishop are directors and shareholders of Write Properties Ltd.