The University of Otago has rejected suggestions of a
conflict of interest over sponsoring the Highlanders after
revelations the club's former chairman was on a three-person
committee which approved the deal.
This comes after the Sunday Star Times revealed the
contentious decision to sponsor the team was made by the
council's three-person standing committee.
The committee includes chancellor John Ward and
pro-chancellor Stuart McLauchlan, who both have links to
Dunedin rugby, and vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne.
Mr McLauchlan was chairman of the Highlanders from 2004-09
and Mr Ward was a former trustee of the Carisbrook Stadium
Charitable Trust, which was set up to build a new stadium.
This has come in for criticism from the Tertiary Education
Union, Otago University organiser Shaun Scott saying it
created a ''perception'' issue.
''That, in itself, is a reason that it would have seemed to
be more appropriate for [the full] council to make the
A university spokeswoman this week said it was ''important to
note'' Mr Ward resigned from the Carisbrook Stadium
Charitable Trust in 2009 and Mr McLauchlan left the
Highlanders board in the same year.
''Neither has had involvement or dealings with either of
those organisations since that time, and when the decision to
sponsor the Highlanders was made ... no conflict of interest
The decision was made after marketing and communications
division director Virginia Nicholls assessed the benefits it
would bring to the university.
It was within Prof Hayne's powers to make the decision
''However, given the new nature of the sponsorship she felt
it helpful to consult with council's standing committee.''
It could not be referred to the full council as a decision
had to be made by the end of January ahead of its first
meeting on February 25.
The university was happy with the way the sponsorship deal
''The team is receiving good coverage and it is particularly
pleasing to be supporting a team that has improved so