Mayor Richard Kempthorne cleared of conflict allegations over Waimea dam
Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne has no financial conflict of interest in the proposed Waimea dam, The Auditor-General has found
"His interest is in common with the public and he is not prohibited from participating in council discussions or voting on matters relating to the Waimea dam proposal," a letter from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) says.
Kempthorne said he was not surprised by the finding.
"There was nothing in it [allegations]," he said.
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The letter comes after the OAG received a complaint from a ratepayer about Kempthorne casting a deciding vote on a council decision about the proposed dam.
In the letter, signed by Melanie Webb, assistant Auditor-General, legal, says the ratepayer is concerned the mayor has an undeclared conflict of interest because of his involvement in horticulture.
"The ratepayer's view is that the main purpose of the proposed dam is to supply water for irrigation, primarily horticulture," the letter says.
Claims from the ratepayer were that Kempthorne:
* has previously been the head of Horticulture NZ and has held other positions in it or its entities;
* has not declared his Horticulture NZ position on the council's interests register;
* has a link to Horticulture NZ on his kempthorne.co.nz website;
* has declared an interest in a family inheritance, presumed to be an apple orchard because his family owns horticultural blocks.
The OAG sought information via the council in response to the complaints. That information explained that:
* Kempthorne and his wife owned an orchard at Appleby from 1980 until 2001;
* during that time, he became a director of the NZ Fruitgrowers Federation and a member, and eventually the chairman, of the NZ Agrichemical Education Trust;
* he was an interim director of Horticulture NZ when the NZ Fruitgrowers Federation and VegFed were combined.
"The positions mayor Kempthorne held in the NZ Fruitgrowers Federation and his interim directorship in Horticulture NZ ended around 14 years ago," the OAG letter says.
"In our view, these historic roles do not create issues of conflict for the mayor in his present role."
When considering such complaints, the OAG is interested in whether the participating rule in section 6 of the Local Authorities (Members' Interests) Act 1968 has been breached.
"That rule is that members of an authority are not allowed to participate in discussion or voting on any matter before the authority in which they have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest, other than an interest in common with the public."
The council's Elected Members Interests Register shows Kempthorne has ownership interests in two properties in Tasman district – a family estate property at Eves Valley and his primary residence at Richmond.
In the letter, Webb says the Eves Valley property has no connection to the Waimea Plains and the trust will not be purchasing water from the dam.
"... if this land cannot use water from the proposed dam, it creates no financial interest for the mayor in the dam proposal".
However, as an urban water user, Kempthorne will benefit from the dam along with all households connected to the urban supply network that is sourced from the Waimea catchment.
Council advice indicated Kempthorne's interest in the Richmond property put him in a group with four councillors and about 6481 ratepayers who are within the "zone of benefit" for the proposed dam and part of an urban "water club".
"In these circumstances, it seems likely that the mayor's interest in the Waimea dam proposal will be the same as all the other ratepayers similarly affected," the OAG letter says.
Meanwhile, work by the OAG continues on an earlier complaint alleging Cr Kit Maling has a conflict of interest over the dam project.