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Complaint over undisclosed donations

SIMON MAUDE
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2014
Lyndsay Brock

CHANCE SIGHTING: Lyndsay Brock says she made a copy of confidential council minutes accidentally posted online before they were taken down.

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A Devonport woman says it's a "matter of principle" driving her complaint against two politicians.

Lyndsay Brock alleges Devonport-Takapuna Local Board deputy-chairman Joseph Bergin and North Shore councillor George Wood broke conflict of interest rules.

During the respective confidential deliberations of the March 18 Devonport-Takapuna Local Board and the March 30 Governing Body, Bergin and Wood failed to redisclose donations received from the same property owner, Brock alleges.

Bergin and Wood both moved motions, passed by both bodies, that support fast-tracking special housing area (SHA) designations for properties including Takapuna's "The Quarry".

Council's normal consenting process is sped-up for SHA designated areas, making it easier to build large developments.

2013 electoral donation declarations signed-off on by both men show they each accepted a $1450 donation from Chris Smale, whose family owns The Quarry land.

Both politicians declared the donations despite the Local Electoral Act 2001 only requiring total donations of $1500 or more from the same source be revealed.

Brock insists Bergin and Wood should have exempted or immediately restated these donations during SHA deliberations.

"It's a matter of principle for me. It's really important to avoid suggestions of bias. It's really silly, it's not even a big amount of money. So why not say so?" Brock says.

Bergin and Wood have yet to see Brock's complaint, but Wood considers the matter has been settled after the auditor-general rejected it.

Wood won't comment on the complaint, which is now with Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town.

Bergin is confident the chief executive will find no conduct breach.

"The way it's explained to elected members by council is the member must determine whether they are in conflict themselves. As far as I'm concerned the donation wasn't relevant to the board decision - even if I'd exempted myself it wouldn't have made a difference to the decision," Bergin says.

The SHA motion was passed 4-2 by the board.

The donation from the Smale family was declared on his campaign return and he has always been upfront about donations received and has never promised anything in return, Bergin says.

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- North Shore Times

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