Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Conflicts of Interest at Environment Canterbury

The Auditor-General has ruled [PDF] that four Canterbury Regional Councillors violated conflict of interest rules to vote down a motion which affected them financially. The motion would have imposed user-charges on large water consent holders to cover the cost of allocation and enforcement. The councillors were all farmers, or had interests in farm companies. One was listed in the top twenty consent holders most affected by the charges. Despite this clear financial interest (which in one case was over $13,000 a year), the councillors ignored conflict of interest warnings and voted on the motion, defeating it. And they laughed all the way to the bank...

Sadly, they won't be prosecuted. But they should be. And hopefully it will also cause other councils - which tend to be dominated by farmers and property developers - to take a serious look at their own conflict of interest provisions to prevent such abuses in future.

Interestingly, the councillors involved played a key role in ousting former ECan chair Kerry Burke, who had laid the complaint against them. Revenge?

[Hat-tip: DPF]

Update: Switched link on ousting to a better one. And it was definitely revenge - all four of them voted to roll the chair who had complained about their conflict of interest.