Conflict of interest claim denied

Bev Butler
Bev Butler
Anti-stadium campaigner Bev Butler has again taken aim at the people who worked to build the Forsyth Barr Stadium, but this time she has got no backing from a former ally, now mayor, Dave Cull.

Ms Butler's latest target is Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL) director Mike Coburn, who has also worked on the project delivery team that made sure the stadium was built.

She claimed there was a conflict of interest in the role, and that two invoices she unearthed to Mr Coburn's company Ruboc Holdings for "casual corporate suite rental" last year for the All Blacks v Wales game, showed about $6000 that should not have been paid for by ratepayers.

But Mr Cull said yesterday the hiring of Mr Coburn had been "quite transparent; someone had to do the job".

Mr Cull has long been a critic of the project, and spoke at Stop the Stadium's 2009 opposition meeting that filled the Dunedin Town Hall.

But he said the project delivery team had done "a bloody good job" in keeping costs down for the project, with "few major extras", and the corporate box hire was "just business".

"We wanted to keep the work in Dunedin," he joked.

Carisbrook Stadium Trust chairman Malcolm Farry said yesterday Mr Coburn was a member of the stadium's project delivery team.

He was paid for his work, probably worked more than 40 hours a week, and his accounts were paid to Ruboc.

Ms Butler sent the Otago Daily Times 23 invoices she had received under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, which showed Ruboc Holdings earned more than $83,000 between 2009 and 2011.

Dunedin City Council governance manager Sandy Graham responded to Ms Butler's queries, saying the invoices covered Ruboc Holdings' time in respect of many meetings attended relevant to the delivery of the stadium project.

Two invoices related to the rental of a suite at Carisbrook.

"The hosting of contractors at Carisbrook was an exercise by the [project delivery team] to strengthen the working relationship primarily between the main contractor Hawkins, subcontractors and Arrow International Ltd at a time when they were facing significant challenges to reduce costs to remain within budget."

Ms Butler said she did not accept that explanation.

Mr Coburn late yesterday said Ruboc was appointed to the project delivery team by the Carisbrook Stadium Trust to assist in the delivery of "a very complex project that had to meet both monetary and time constraints and also brought both cost control and project experience to the table".

"The fee charged was at the lower of the scale for this type of work."

Asked if ratepayers should be charged $6000 to host contractors to a test match, Mr Coburn said the project delivery team hosted the key members of the project management team, and the main contractors, as part of a budgeted programme for team building to ensure the successful delivery of the stadium on time and to budget.

"It is common business practice to host key players in major projects."

There was no conflict of interest with DCHL, and the earnings were over the life of the project.

On the suggestion there was an issue with the hiring of the corporate suite, Mr Cull said, "Again, that's business."

Ms Butler said she did not agree, and if a meeting was needed, it could have been done in a much cheaper venue.

- david.loughrey@odt.co,nz

 

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