A Waitara Community Board member has tried to charge the New Plymouth District Council $20,000 for a report he was not meant to write in the first place.
Information released to the Taranaki Daily News under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings (LGOIMA) Act showed Bill Simpson delivered a cultural impact report and two invoices totalling $20,000 to the council on January 30.
The invoices, one for the council and the other for property developer Richard Dreaver, were issued by Hinengaro Tapui Limited. Simpson is sole director of this company and his wife, Maureen Bell-Simpson, is sole shareholder.
The invoices relate to a cultural report about the Tangaroa Stream, which runs through a Waitara subdivision between Armstrong Ave and Waitara High School.
The subdivision, known as Waitara Area A, was the subject of a May 2013 appeal to the Environment Court.
The appeal was made against the council's decision to rezone land from rural to residential, which allowed the subdivision to proceed.
Simpson was one of seven appellants involved in the case.
The information released to the Daily News indicates Simpson and fellow appellant Marty Toa requested the report at a mediation meeting held about the subdivision in November.
They advised it would be completed by Te Kaunihera Kaumatua o Te Atiawa Nui Tonu at a cost of $20,000. The organisation, which meets weekly, includes kaumatua representatives from Te Atiawa hapu.
However, at a NPDC meeting in December a resolution was passed which precluded the subdivision appellants from having anything to do with the report's preparation. After becoming aware of this, Te Kaunihera Kaumatua o Te Atiawa Nui Tonu advised council of its decision to withdraw support for Simpson's report.
But in yet another twist to the complicated affair, the group has since reversed its decision.
In a letter to the council on February 12, support was reinstated for the report and that payment now be honoured for it. The letter was signed by the group's chairman, Trenton Martin, and Simpson himself, who is referred to as secretary.
Simpson has declined to speak with the Daily News about the issue but in emails sent by Simpson to fellow Waitara Community Board members in February he denied any wrongdoing. The emails were also released to the Daily News under LGOIMA.
"Te Kaunihera Kaumatua o Te Atiawa Nui Tonu did support the report. I make this very clear," he said.
Simpson also confirmed Hinengaro Tapui Limited was his company and he supplied the invoices for work he had done in relation to the report, describing it as "just a simple business transaction".
In a March 13 letter to the kaumatua group, NPDC chief executive Barbara McKerrow said the U-turn from Te Kaunihera Kaumatua o Te Atiawa Nui Tonu was "noted with concern" by council.
She said "under no circumstances" would any payment be made to Simpson for the report, which she said lacked any original input or analysis.
"The resource put into the document would appear to be limited to the time taken to assemble the content and to have it photocopied and spiral bound," she said.
McKerrow said future payment would only be considered upon receipt of a report that met council's quality standards. This included the use of sourced material, recommendations or guidelines for the council to follow and an endorsement from mana whenua.
Te Kaunihera Kaumatua o Te Atiawa Nui Tonu's Donald Harris declined to comment about the report except to say the matter remained unresolved.
There's something about Bill: Page 15
- Taranaki Daily News
Should New Plymouth switch to energy-saving streetlights?Related story: Bright idea a big saver