Councillor lodges Delta purchase complaint

Lee Vandervis
Lee Vandervis
A complaint has been lodged with the Office of the Auditor-general by Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis over Central Otago subdivision purchases which soured and left the council millions of dollars out of pocket.

DCC infrastructure company Delta bought part of a subdivision in Luggate in July 2008, and another at Jacks Point, near Queenstown, in May 2009, but their value has subsequently been written down by millions of dollars.

In mid-October, the DCC announced a $9 million write-down of Delta investments, including the subdivisions, which contributed to the Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL) group of companies' booking a $5 million loss for the year to June.

Cr Vandervis claims pre-purchase details of the Jacks Point and Luggate subdivision acquisitions, plus details of City Forests' mothballed wood-processing plant at Milburn, are being withheld from him.

Cr Vandervis contacted the Otago Daily Times yesterday, saying the Office of the Auditor-general had accepted his complaint and it had been passed on to its investigation unit, but he was yet to hear if the OAG would launch a full investigation.

"I have been trying to get information on who was responsible for Jacks Point-Luggate property speculation for several years now, but have been denied," Mr Vandervis said.

Cr Vandervis wants to view Delta and DCHL conflict-of-interest registers and meeting minutes outlining who voted in favour of buying the subdivisions.

He had approached directors and senior council staff with regard to the issue, and expressed dissatisfaction with the responses he had received, "none of which are credible", and said his attempts to have questions answered had been "systematically frustrated".

"The only people who responded claimed not to have taken part [in deciding on any purchases]", Mr Vandervis said.

He had so far had a speedy response to his lodging of the complaint and felt "reasonably encouraged" the OAG would launch a formal investigation, he said.


Delta land purchases

What use is it knowing which Delta board members voted for the Central Otago land purchases. The decision was made by the board when times were good before the recession took hold. Knowing the names the board members will make no difference.  Like many others who bought sections in the same developments, the board decided that this was a good investment.

This is just another time wasting and money wasting action by those who continually criticise our council.

Look at the dividends DCHL and Delta have given to the council to subsidise our rates in the past. Unfortunately, they like many others did not know we were going to be hit by the recession.

Stop wasting time with a useless witch hunt.

Move on!

More power to the people

Cr Vandervis feels compelled to approach the offices of the Auditor General out of sheer frustration in endeavouring to get answers to his concerns over various activities of DCHL. The practice of frustrating elected councillors in their duties of care is a deep seated problem within that building, aided and abetted in many instances by 'senior' elected people as well. It is to be hoped that Cr Vandervis is supported by the OAG in his endeavours to clarify this vexing business of Delta land purchases in Central Otago. It must be understood that these businessess are the investment of the citizens, and an obligation to account is imperative.

How about some accountability?

As I have written, and had published in the ODT in the past, there is a pressing need for transparency within the DCC owned entities including Delta.  The way in which these entities were structured with self-appointed directors all receiving huge fees, CEOs acting as though the entities were privately owned with no final stakeholder approval, the ways in which decisions were made that resulted in activity completely outside their core business, the ways in which enormous expenditure was made that resulted in huge losses to Dunedin ratepayers, and the total refusal by anyone concerned to answer to ratepayer concerns, are alone reason for a public enquiry.

It is to be hoped that the OAG will at last act decisively to force those that are responsible to be also accountable.  I for one, am sick to the back teeth of what is passed off as "unfortunate decisions in the past" by directors but in reality is a complete failure to account to those that are the final stakeholders and shareholders in these city businesses.


Where is transparency now

Ratepayers are going to have to pay millions of dollars in extra rates to make up for the losses from this property speculation. We should be told the details of these transactions, and who to hold responsible.

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