Few councillors name any conflicts of interest

KAREN GOODGER
Last updated 13:00 02/12/2010

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Conflicts of interest are a common topic of conversation at the Nelson City Council yet only the mayor and three councillors have publicly declared that they have any.

A request for all council members to declare their conflicts of interest following the recent local body elections drew responses from Mayor Aldo Miccio, and councillors Ali Boswijk, Ruth Copeland and Pete Rainey.

Mr Miccio is a director of two companies, Aapi and Bissi, is a beneficiary of the April Trust, a trustee of the Summit Nelson Tasman Rescue Helicopter and the Nelson Bays Community Foundation and a district executive of Nelson Bays Football.

Ms Boswijk has declared that her spouse has an interest in Marchfest, which the council sponsors, and she owns an inner city property. Ms Copeland's spouse also contracts council events.

Pete Rainey declared his roles as Opera in the Park artistic director, Nelson Civic Choir musical director, Nelson Historic Theatre Trust member, Nelson Millennium Trust member and his spouse being the sales manager at Media Works.

All the other councillors said they had no conflicts of interest, although Ian Barker had not returned his form prior to the information being made available to the Nelson Mail.

Council chief executive Keith Marshall said it was "interesting" that only four members had declared conflicts. "I end up in probably one or two discussions or advice about this on a monthly basis, sometimes more."

This is because the council deals with a wide-ranging list of issues, he said.

"My advice to council is always to be cautious and declare more rather than less."

It did appear that some had taken a very precautionary approach while others had not, he said.

Councillors have all been given the auditor-general's guidance on conflicts of interest.

"The consequences fall to them, not to council," Mr Marshall said. "The consequences are both in terms of reputation harm and and in terms of some real criminal liability so it's entirely over to them."

Councillors can and often do declare conflicts of interests when particular issues arise.

The Tasman District Council's interest register is empty.

Corporate services manager Murray Staite said although councillors were reminded on an annual basis to sign the register, they were not required legally to do so.

However, they were obliged to declare interests at meetings when business was discussed they had a personal interest in. He said that approach worked well.

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