Council observer for ORFU meetings

The Dunedin City Council will have a permanent presence at future Otago Rugby Football Union board meetings, after councillors yesterday appointed an observer to help avoid any future "train-wrecks".

However, councillors also moved to de-politicise the appointment by agreeing the observer would be a council staff member selected by council chief executive Paul Orders.

The suggestion came from Cr Kate Wilson, who also nominated deputy mayor Chris Staynes as the council's representative on the selection panel being created to form the next ORFU board.

The creation of both positions was part of a deal between the council and the union, which also resulted in the council writing off the $480,000 owed to it and Dunedin Venues Management Ltd by the ORFU.

Councillors voted 8-3 in favour of both moves at yesterday's extraordinary council meeting.

Mayor Dave Cull said an observer would mean the council was in a better position to avoid "potential train-wrecks".

"Certainly we can make no difference at all if we don't have knowledge - that's for sure," he said.

The appointments would mean the council, through Cr Staynes, would have a say in who sat on the union's next board.

Mr Orders told the meeting that board would be formed under a new constitution being drafted by the ORFU that placed new emphasis on "skills and competency".

The council would also have a presence at all board meetings, even those dealing with sensitive topics, through its observer.

The observer would have access to all union papers and information, and the right to ask questions and report back to the council, councillors heard.

Crs Bill Acklin, Paul Hudson and Lee Vandervis all voted against the appointments.

Cr Hudson was worried the observer's role needed clarifying and did not go far enough to protect ratepayers' interests.

He believed observers would have a responsibility to act in the best interests of the board, and could be asked to leave meetings when debate turned to significant issues.

"Once we appoint someone to a board they are responsible to act as a board member," he said.

"What we are doing here is not strong enough for what we, and I think the citizens of Dunedin, expect, going forward."

Mr Cull disagreed, saying the observer would be "our observer", with access to all information and the right to report back to the council, as a letter from ORFU change manager Jeremy Curragh made clear.

Mr Cull's comments were backed by Mr Orders, who said the observer would report back regularly and would be able to raise any financial concerns.

"Our expectation would be the observer would be party to all matters, confidential or not ... where they did impact on the council in any significant way, we would report that back," Mr Orders said.

Cr Acklin questioned the choice of Cr Staynes for the ORFU selection panel, after Cr Staynes - at a speech to leisure marchers inside the Forsyth Barr Stadium - spent much of his speech "rubbishing" the facility.

Cr Staynes was not at yesterday's meeting, but Cr Wilson and Mr Cull defended his selection, citing his qualifications and experience for the role.

Cr Richard Thomson voted for the appointments, but wanted assurances the observer would be able to act if they identified problems.

Mr Cull said the union's new constitution - expected to be confirmed at the ORFU's special general meeting on May 1 - would address "exactly those kind of matters".



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