The Dunedin City Council's decision to adopt an ethical
investment policy violated the Local Government Act, Cr Hilary
Councillors did not have ''proper information'' evaluating
the costs and benefits of the policy for the Waipori Fund,
which included divesting it of fossil fuel extraction
companies, before making the decision, Cr Calvert argued.
Her argument prompted council chief executive Sue Bidrose to
seek a legal opinion on whether the decision was ''ultra
vires'', or beyond the council's powers.
Dr Bidrose said the internal legal opinion was that the
''proper information'' Cr Calvert was referring to was only
required when the council decided on the actual policy, which
was to be prepared by staff based on what councillors this
week asked to be included.
Once the policy was developed, councillors had the
opportunity to change their minds about whether they
supported it, based on more detailed information weighing up
the costs and benefits, Dr Bidrose said.
In any case ''some councillors'' would argue the Russell
Investments report, which gave councillors ''ball-park''
figures about the costs of the policy, qualified as proper
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull told Cr Calvert by email he believed
she was mistaken.
''The benefits and costs were laid out in the consultant's
report, but in any case this is a policy decision and the
obligation to weigh costs and benefits applies to
implementation,'' Mr Cull said in the email.
University of Auckland associate law Prof Ken Palmer, an
expert on the Local Government Act, said there was ''very
little'' chance a legal challenge against the decision would
''I don't think there would be any legal problem with the
council decision, I mean, after all, it was a majority
[decision],'' Prof Palmer said.
The Local Government Act said the amount of information and
consultation required was ''relative'' to the seriousness to
the decision, he said. There was ''no parallel'' case where a
decision of similar magnitude had been overturned.
Cr Calvert yesterday stood by her view, but said she would
not ''die in a ditch'' over it, and had no plans to take it