Councillors blindsided by DVML results

Dunedin city councillors are pointing fingers after some were blindsided by a $3.2 million loss by the company running Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Some councillors spoken to by the Otago Daily Times yesterday admitted they were unaware they had accepted reports detailing the loss at Monday's council meeting. Other councillors were aware of the reports, but were still yet to read them properly.

The ODT yesterday reported Dunedin Venues Management Ltd's annual report - detailing the loss - had slipped through Monday's council meeting without questioning or debate.

Councillors yesterday confirmed they had received the report during a private briefing by Dunedin City Holdings Ltd chief executive Bevan Dodds and chairman Denham Shale last week.

However, some were unaware they had them, as the DVML report - and another from Dunedin Venues Ltd - were not mentioned during the DCHL briefing.

The two companies were not technically part of the DCHL group, and the DVML report was at the bottom of a bundle of reports from DCHL's companies, given out at the end of the briefing.

DVML was also not mentioned on Monday's council meeting agenda, and the DVML report was not circulated publicly - or to media - ahead of the meeting, as required by the Local Government Act.

That meant the reports were accepted without debate, and, as a result, some councillors were not even aware they had done so, it was confirmed yesterday.

Council chief executive Paul Orders said yesterday the situation was a mistake, not a conspiracy, but not acceptable. He had contacted Mr Dodds and DVML chief executive Darren Burden yesterday to discuss the situation.

"We did not deal with this as well as we could have. The council is not interested in excuses. We need to do better and on this occasion we got it wrong."

However, Cr Paul Hudson, the ousted DCHL chairman, yesterday launched a broadside at his colleagues, claiming most were not interested in, or could not understand, such reports.

"That's their responsibility and they've got to take responsibility for the information they've been given and the way it's presented.

"I don't think they received the attention they should receive when they come to the council table."

Cr Kate Wilson shot back, saying she could not speak for other councillors, but she "didn't hear him ask any questions".

Cr Hudson said it was inappropriate to do so, given his removal from DCHL last year.

"I'm being very careful about not interfering and creating waves in public, because that's not appropriate for me to be doing that, even in my role as a councillor."

He was aware DVML's report was going to Monday's meeting, but, asked if he had read it from cover to cover, said: "No, of course not. I used to have to. I don't have to now."

Cr Richard Thomson said he was unaware of DVML's report until after Monday's meeting, as he did not know it was among the bundle of information from DCHL.

He did not go through the reports because "I felt I understood all I needed to know" from the DCHL briefing.

"I have read them now."

Cr Hudson was "entitled to his opinion", but many councillors would "find it difficult to understand the financial accounts", Cr Thomson said.

"I've got a better knowledge than most, but I'm not an accountant, and I find it difficult at times."

Cr Bill Acklin had not read the reports by Monday's meeting, either, and was still yet to.

"If you're talking about every page, no, but I don't think this is about me reading reports. We've been obviously kept up to date along the way with different briefings about where things are at."

Asked when the last briefing was, he said he would "have togo back to my diary".

Cr Neil Collins said he had "skimmed through" the reports, but was reluctant to comment.

"There's nothing that can be done, really. I guess wiser minds than mine know what they are doing."

Cr Syd Brown said the DVML report appeared to have "fallen through the cracks".

He had read it, but only after Monday's council meeting, when alerted to it by council staff.

"That was on my to-do list, to look through those reports in depth, and I hadn't got to them [by Monday]."

Cr Andrew Noone had read the DCHL chairman's report and the summaries from other companies, including DVML, ahead of Monday's meeting.

Cr Jinty MacTavish was unaware of DVML's report until Monday night, so did not ask questions during Monday's council meeting, but had skim-read it yesterday.

However, she had spent a day examining DCHL's report ahead of the meeting, and did not accept Cr Hudson's criticism as "fair criticism of me".

Mayor Dave Cull had also only skim-read DVML's report, but also did not think Cr Hudson's criticism was fair.

"The only person ... any councillor can speak about is himself.

In so far as he said that, I can only assume he's talking about himself."

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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