The Dunedin City Council will seek clearance from the
Office of the Auditor-general (OAG) for two city councillors to
continue debating a new events attraction fund.
The move came after suggestions yesterday Crs Kate Wilson and
Richard Thomson should not have debated or voted on the
$400,000-a-year fund, as both ran businesses that could
benefit from it. The suggestion was dismissed yesterday by
the councillors themselves, as well as council staff and
Mayor Dave Cull. However, council governance manager Sandy
Graham confirmed the OAG would be asked for a ruling before a
final decision on the fund was made by councillors in May.
Cr Kate Wilson, who runs a Middlemarch cafe, said yesterday
she sought advice from Ms Graham, and received a clearance,
before taking part in Monday's debate on the fund.
Councillors voted to proceed with the fund, subject to public
consultation, because of the economic benefits more big
events to Dunedin could bring to the city's businesses.
Cr Wilson was among those who argued for the fund and told
councillors turnover at her cafe had increased when fans
flocked to Dunedin for Elton John's concert at Forsyth Barr
Cr Richard Thomson also argued for the fund, saying turnover
at his Dunedin retail store jumped 80% thanks to the concert.
Critics posting messages online yesterday suggested both
councillors should have withdrawn from the debate and vote
because they appeared to have pecuniary interests in the
However, Cr Wilson told the Otago Daily Times
interest was no greater than a substantial number of other
people involved in retail, hospitality or other businesses, and
her comments were ''not about whether I would personally
Monday's vote was also only to include the fund in the
council's draft budget for public consultation, and was not a
final decision, she said.
Cr Thomson said he had been trying to stress the benefits of
keeping Dunedin people - and their money - in the city,
rather than leaving them to fly to other cities for major
His comments were not designed to protect his own business
interests, he said.
Mr Cull said yesterday he was confident neither councillor
had acted improperly.
Ms Graham said it was appropriate both declared interests,
but neither stood to lose or gain by voting to include the
fund in a draft budget for consultation.
Pecuniary interest restrictions in legislation did not apply
when the interest was one ''in common with the public'', but
she could offer no advice on when that exception applied.
However, the OAG had previously said such an interest did not
need to be shared by the entire public, Ms Graham said.
''It is sometimes enough that a councillor is part of a large
group of people affected in a similar way.''