Auditor-general to look at Fish & Game finances

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 10:21 29/11/2012

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Councillors have alleged errors in accounting, writes Aaron Leaman. 

The auditor-general has been asked to investigate Auckland-Waikato Fish & Game Council over "serious concerns" with the council's finances.

Four sitting councillors wrote to Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson this month alleging errors in the council's financial reports and a lack of proper governance.

In a letter obtained by the Waikato Times , councillors alleged some of the council's accounts were "vague and obscure" and called for an independent auditor to address their concerns.

"As such, whilst not alleging financial irregularities, neither can we rule out the possibility that such has occurred due to the lack of use of the checks and balances available to council," the councillors wrote.

A spokeswoman for Ms Wilkinson said the minister had referred the allegations to the auditor-general's office for investigation, but declined to comment on the scope of the inquiry.

Councillor Guy Ralph, one of four councillors to call for an inquiry, said a statutory manager should be appointed to carry out an independent review of the council's finances.

He said accountancy errors had crept into the council's reports and had eroded people's confidence in the body.

"All we are after is proper governance and for information to go to all councillors because we were all voted in as equals."

Mr Ralph was also concerned the council had advertised for a new chief executive during recent council elections, replacing longstanding chief executive Doug Emmett.

Mr Emmett signalled to councillors his intention to retire at the end of the year and defended the timing of his departure. He told the Times he didn't know the terms of reference of the auditor-general's investigation or when it would happen.

He was confident the investigation would find the council in good shape.

"I think the council is extremely effective and I think it functions incredibly well.

"There's a lot of information in our minutes that will clarify issues. Councils often have a dissenting group and some of them accept councils are run by a majority decision and others don't."

Meanwhile, police were called to the council's meeting at Ramarama Hall last week after members of the public refused to leave following a motion to exclude them.

After discussions with police, the council relocated outside the building to move into public excluded. The council returned to the hall 20 minutes later.

Mr Emmett said it was the first time in 25 years police had been called to a council meeting.

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"I think alcohol is always a problem in these circumstances," he said.

AUCKLAND-WAIKATO FISH & GAME COUNCIL

New Zealand Fish & Game Council and its 12 regional councils are public entities, with councillors elected by fishing or hunting licence holders. Regional Fish & Game councils are the statutory managers of sports fish and game birds and their sustainable recreational use by anglers and hunters. Auckland-Waikato Fish & Game Council has 12 councillors. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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