Council staff to discuss dispute with Hall

Dunedin City Council staff are to hold high level talks with one of the city's new councillors, Doug Hall, who remains locked in a long-running legal dispute with the organisation.

Mr Hall, a Dunedin businessman who was elected as a city councillor on Saturday, has been embroiled in an Environment Court battle with the council over the realignment of State Highway 88.

Mr Hall has fought the council's designation process for the highway realignment, which was built ahead of the opening of the Forsyth Barr Stadium, because of the impact it had on his neighbouring transport yard.

By last year, the council's bill from the legal tussle had already risen to $485,000, and was still climbing.

And, in August, Mr Hall indicated it might need to climb much higher if the council eventually opted to buy him out - something he expected could cost up to $8 million.

With no sign of a resolution, council chief executive Paul Orders yesterday confirmed he and corporate services group manager Sandy Graham would meet Mr Hall later this week to discuss the situation.

Mr Orders would not comment on the details of the talks until after the meeting was held on Thursday.

Ms Graham said it was usually up to elected members to manage any conflicts of interest, but a decision on whether outside advice was needed would be made after meeting Mr Hall.

She also declined further comment until after Thursday's meeting.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said it was ''not ideal'' to have a councillor locked in a dispute with the council that was costing ratepayers money.

''But it's also not ideal to have a councillor who finds himself conflicted on so many things because of that, who can't get involved in probably rather a lot.''

In the meantime, Mr Hall and the rest of council would have to ''very carefully'' consider ''how we handle the inevitable conflicts [of interest]'', Mr Cull said.

He hoped there was an opportunity to ''re-look at whether we can resolve the differences'' between the council and Mr Hall.

''If that could be resolved without a long, drawn-out court battle, then it would make it so much easier.''

Mr Hall, speaking to the Otago Daily Times on Sunday, acknowledged he would have to withdraw from some debates because of his ongoing legal challenge, to avoid conflicts of interest, but said: ''That's life''.

His priority as a councillor would be honesty, but he expected to be able to work well with his colleagues.

''I can work with anybody if they tell the truth,'' he said.

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