Conflict of interest no longer

A Gore district councillor no longer has a conflict of interest after the completion of a joint concept study between Solid Energy and fertiliser company Ravensdown.

The Gore District Council this week accepted Waikaka ward councillor Bevin Watt did not have a conflict of interest now that Ravensdown would no longer be involved with further feasibility work.

Since being elected two years ago, Cr Watt has been unable to take part in discussions about lignite developments because of the relationship between Solid Energy and Ravensdown, of which he is a director.

Ravensdown is a farmer-owned fertiliser co-operative which had been working with Government-owned Solid Energy in investigating the feasibility of a lignite-to-fertiliser plant in Eastern Southland.

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said Solid Energy had confirmed there was no formal relationship with Ravensdown. He said there was potential in the future for Cr Watt to be in a position where he had a conflict of interest but the council would deal with any issues as they arose.

Solid Energy general manager lignite conversion Greg Visser said the company and Ravensdown had completed a concept study for a urea fertiliser plant that uses lignite mined in Southland.

"That study confirmed for both parties how important the project is for Southland and New Zealand, and progressing to a more detailed feasibility investigation is justified."

Mr Visser said both parties agreed that further feasibility work would be undertaken by Solid Energy.

"Ravensdown remains interested in off-take arrangement to meet the demand for urea in New Zealand and Australia."

Cr Watt said he was looking forward to discussions about the project and the prospects it held for the district.

"I must say, that after having to come to grips as to why the book was closed in respect to me taking part in, not only the project itself, but all things to do with our Growth Strategy, to find the book suddenly open is quite a relief," he said.

- helena.dereus@odt.co.nz