Auckland councillors reveal interests

PLEDGE: Auckland mayor Len Brown.
PLEDGE: Auckland mayor Len Brown.

The shutters of secrecy around the personal commercial interests of elected councillors and local board members are beginning to lift at the country's largest local council.

In May last year Auckland mayor Len Brown pledged to the Sunday Star-Times that Auckland Council would work towards the establishment of a register of pecuniary interests of councillors, something other major councils have long provided to their ratepayers.

MPs, who arguably set the tone for transparency in New Zealand, also have their pecuniary interests disclosed on a public register, and ironically Manukau Council, which Brown had been mayor of, had a public register until it was folded into the super-city .

Now, Brown's pledge is being fulfilled, and the register for Auckland councillors and local board members has gone online following the examples of councils such as Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga, though it remains a work in progress.

Declarations of commercial interests by Brown and nine of the 20 elected councillors are now online, as are declarations for 44 of the 148 local board members.

That does not represent the full number of elected representatives who have filled in declarations, and while the council may not get 100 per cent of declaration summaries up online this term, that is the aim for next.

Elected members were asked to complete and return their declarations, which were then summarised for the attached documents.

The reason why some declarations are not up is that some councillors have not yet approved the summaries to go online. As council does not reconvene until January 31, some councillors remain on holiday.

In not having a public register of elected members' commercial interests, the super-city council was out of line with the times, and with its own stated position.

In April last year, this paper reported that the peak body for local councils had told the Government that all councils should have public registers, just like the one MPs have to be on.

In fact, the lack of registers at some councils - the heavily indebted Dunedin City Council was another without a public register - seems in direct contravention of the Local Government Act that requires councils to operate "in an open, transparent, and democratically accountable manner".

Local Government New Zealand told the Government it believes the model set by MPs needed to apply to local councillors, arguing that it wo

Sunday Star Times