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Miccio emails deleted

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 13:00 27/06/2013

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Six emails that Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio sent his business partner York Zhang have been deleted from the Nelson City Council system, and council chief executive Clare Hadley is refusing to release them.

One email was sent on October 30 last year and the rest between November 26 and November 29, which was the week the Nelson Mail's story about Mr Miccio's personal business deal with Mr Zhang and NZ Inc Shop was published.

The Mail requested correspondence between Mr Miccio and Mr Zhang under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA), after allegations that Mr Miccio was using his position to further his own business interests in China.

However, Mrs Hadley said the emails would take a minimum of six hours to recover, and the council's IT department had to focus on supporting the organisation.

Mr Miccio was in regular contact with Mr Zhang throughout the year, with the mayor's cellphone records showing that in 2012 he texted or called Mr Zhang 372 times.

Other emails obtained under the LGOIMA showed that in February and March 2012, Mr Miccio and Bill Findlater, chief executive of the city council-funded Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency (EDA), had arranged to meet Mr Zhang in China separately from the rest of a local business delegation.

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) yesterday released its inquiry into Mr Miccio's personal business deal with Mr Zhang, NZ Inc Shop, and his mayoral efforts to promote Nelson businesses in China. It found he did not break any laws but warned him to take more care in ensuring his public and personal interests in China were separate, and said he should have declared his interests to the council.

Mr Miccio first met Mr Zhang when Mr Zhang visited Nelson as part of an Auckland-based Asean business group in July 2011. The EDA organised that visit through the Auckland Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce.

In January 2012, Mr Miccio and the EDA's Mr Findlater organised a visit to China with Nelson business leaders that March.

In a proposal to the council for the first trip, Mr Findlater said Mr Miccio needed to attend because "it cannot be overstated that business delegations to China are significantly more successful if accompanied by leading local government officials . . . the office of mayor is held in considerable high regard, whether from a small or major city, and can open many doors not available generally".

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Mr Miccio entered into the e-commerce venture with Mr Zhang in August, but did not mention NZ Inc Shop to the council until a Nelson Mail story in late November 2012. Yesterday, Mr Miccio apologised for any "confusion" he had caused.

"I'm pleased the OAG has confirmed my position that I had no conflict of interest and conducted no personal business on my trips to China," he said.

"I have been doing business in a personal capacity with China for 20 years.

"I have always acted in the best interest of promoting Nelson to the representatives of organisations during my visits, and stand by the OAG findings and my early statements that I have not confused my role of mayor with personal interests.

"If I have erred and created confusion in the minds of the public of Nelson, I apologise. The CEO and I have discussed how we ensure this confusion doesn't occur in future."

TIMELINE

July 2011: Mr Miccio and Auckland-based York Zhang meet at a Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency-organised event.

January 2012: EDA chief executive Bill Findlater proposes that the Nelson City Council fund a trip to China to investigate business opportunities, saying the importance of the mayor's presence cannot be overstated, as the office carries great weight in China.

Feb-March 2012: Mr Miccio, Mr Findlater and Mr Zhang exchange emails arranging to meet during the China trip.

March 2012: First trip to China with Nelson business delegation. Mr Miccio, Mr Zhang and Mr Findlater meet.

April 2012: Mr Miccio tells the Nelson Mail that local businesses could have a new opportunity to sell into China in a "groundbreaking" e-commerce deal. July 2012: Mr Zhang asks Mr Miccio to join NZ Inc Shop as chairman.

August 7, 2012: Mr Miccio seeks council approval for another trip to China and Japan, which was granted.

August 23, 2012: NZ Inc Shop incorporated.

September 2012: Mr Miccio and Mr Findlater return to China on council business.

October 2012: Mr Miccio tells the Nelson Mail "a New Zealand company" will be furthering an e-commerce deal with China.

November 2012: The Mail reveals Mr Miccio's involvement in NZ Inc Shop. Nelson business leaders decry his personal involvement.

January 2013: OAG inquiry launched. June 11, 2013: NZ Inc Shop launched; Nelson businesses start selling through it.

June 26, 2013: The OAG says Mr Miccio should have declared his business interests but finds he did not break the law.

- The Nelson Mail

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