Investigation 'storm in teacup'

A former Delta board member involved in approving land purchases at Jacks Point and Luggate says an inquiry by the Office of the Auditor-general is a "storm in a teacup".

However, other key players in the land acquisitions are refusing to comment until after the Auditor-general's inquiry is complete - a process that could take up to a year.

Norman Evans yesterday told the Otago Daily Times he was confident the purchases had been handled correctly by the Delta board, no conflicts of interest existed, and there was "no issue".

He believed the Auditor-general's inquiry would confirm this.

"It's a storm in a teacup. I'm quite relaxed about it.

"There's nothing wrong been done."

His comment follow confirmation on Wednesday the OAG would investigate all aspects of Delta's decision to spend $14.12 million on property at Jacks Point, in Queenstown, and Luggate, near Wanaka, in 2008 and 2009.

The move came after Delta - a Dunedin City Council-owned company - last month confirmed a $9 million write-down in the value of its investments, including by $7.5 million for the two property purchases.

The OAG inquiry would include how and why the purchases were made, consideration of risks, compliance with legislation and the identification and management of any conflicts of interest, as well as to what extent the Dunedin City Council was involved.

The Delta board has been largely overhauled since the property purchases, leaving only incumbent chairman Ray Polson and director Stuart McLauchlan.

Mr Evans and fellow Delta directors Ross Liddell and Mike Coburn were replaced earlier this month by two new directors, while Paul Hudson - also a city councillor - resigned earlier this year and George Douglas left in December 2008.

Mr Evans told the ODT that, as far as he was aware, all decisions relating to the land purchases had been handled properly at Delta board meetings, based on "strict protocols".

"I don't know of anything untoward, and I'm pretty sure there wasn't ... so I'm pretty happy.

"I think people will see that everything was done properly, and that's totally appropriate. I've got no problem with people checking to see if things are done properly, because they should on occasion."

However, asked about write-down that resulted, and whether he had any regrets, Mr Evans refused to discuss "the details or mechanics of the thing".

"You'll have to talk to the chairman about that."

The chairman, Mr Polson, would only say Delta would "co-operate completely" with the Auditor-general's inquiry but make no further comment until after it was complete.

Asked if OAG rules prevented him discussing the deals publicly during the inquiry, Mr Polson said: "Not that I'm aware of."

"It's just due process, isn't it?

"The investigation's under way. We'll co-operate completely with the investigation and there will be comment made at the appropriate time."

Mr Hudson - also the former Dunedin City Holdings Ltd chairman and a city councillor - said when contacted overseas he was unaware the inquiry had been confirmed, but would not comment anyway.

"I'm out of it. I don't comment on things now of anything to do with the companies.

"I'm not a board member anymore and as part of my resignation I agreed I wouldn't comment on anything, so I won't comment on anything."

Mr Coburn said when contacted he was in a meeting, but would respond to ODT questions later in the day.

Contacted later, he declined to comment until after the investigation was complete.


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