Council decision spurs disagreement

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013

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Karen Arnold waded into the debate surrounding Invercargill's sister-city agreement with Suqian at yesterday's council meeting.

The city councillor raised her concerns about the agreement, which was signed by Mayor Tim Shadbolt last month before councillors formally voted on it.

Cr Arnold asked for her vote to be recorded against the recommendation of councillors endorsing the signing of the agreement.

Cr Lindsay Abbott voted against the recommendation when it was brought up in the finance and policy committee last week.

Cr Arnold said the council had failed to follow the correct procedure, which could subject it to a judicial review. Therefore she wanted her vote recorded against the agreement.

But that was not the only issue the first-term councillor had with the recommendation. She asked why there had not been a cost-benefit analysis done about the sister-city relationship.

Cr Arnold said she had questioned Cr Neil Boniface, the finance and policy committee chairman, about the effectiveness of the agreement and the ability of Invercargill to secure "exclusive deals" when New Zealand already had a free trade agreement with China.

Mr Shadbolt did not address her trade concerns, but said he had tried to follow the correct procedure. "I didn't think we were that secretive really, we tried to do it correctly but it's a strange sort of dance."

However, Mr Shadbolt said the council did not always want to release information to the public.

"The problem is, sometimes we don't want to present all the information."

Mr Shadbolt said the Chinese province had done the same to the city council when they had approached the chinese area for a friendship agreement.

Originally, Invercargill was supposed to be paired with the largest city in the region, but Invercargill was told they would be better suited to the "greener" city of Suqian, where they put a lot of emphasis on the environment.

"When we got there we couldn't see three feet in front of us [because of the pollution]."

Cr Graham Sycamore said the signing had been well notified to both the previous council and the current council.

louise.berwick@stl.co.nz

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