Councillors claim staff misled them on land sale

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012

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Two Invercargill city councillors say they felt misguided by council staff during talks about the sale of the $1 million car park on the corner of Don and Deveron streets.

The city council voted to sell the car park to Calder Stewart Industries at a public excluded meeting in January. The vote was split 6-6, with Mayor Tim Shadbolt using his casting vote in favour of the sale.

This week Councillor Lindsay Abbott said that although he could not be totally sure, he thought he had voted against the sale.

"It all turned to c..., to be quite frank. I have a feeling we were misguided [by council staff]," he said.

Cr Thelma Buck said while she voted for the sale at the time, she would in hindsight vote against it.

"We were given a story. I don't think we were given the right information," she said.

Cr Ian Pottinger, who spoke out about the sale in August, said the staff report on the proposal to sell was sparse.

Cr Carolyn Dean said she voted against the sale for several reasons.

"I felt that the council's primary role was to provide car parking and that was more important than the potential development."

She said she didn't want to lose the income from the car park because it was helping to offset rates.

Cr Dean said although the report from staff was not misleading, it was possible the council had been misled by staff during informal discussions around the table.

Some councillors, including Cr Graham Sycamore, disagreed with councillors who thought staff had been misleading, or that the report was not comprehensive enough.

Cr Norman Elder, a director of Calder Stewart, declared a conflict of interest and did not vote.

The council's director of finance and corporate services, Dean Johnston, declined to comment yesterday.

Some councillors found it difficult to recall which way they voted, but indicated the following:

Councillors who voted against the sale: Lindsay Abbott, Ian Pottinger, Neil Boniface, and Carolyn Dean.

Councillors who voted for the sale: Thelma Buck, Alan Dennis, Lloyd Esler, Darren Ludlow, Graham Sycamore, and Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

Cr Graham Lewis refused to say how he voted and former deputy mayor Jackie Kruger, now in Australia, could not be contacted, but the voting record would indicate both voted against the sale. Hannah McLeod is an SIT journalism student.

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