Kelliher’s action outside scope of auditor

Gary Kelliher
Gary Kelliher
The Office of the Auditor-general will not investigate allegations of improper behind-the-scenes dealings of an Otago regional councillor.

Otago Fish & Game chief executive Ian Hadland called for an investigation after Fish & Game uncovered emails it said showed Cr Gary Kelliher failed to manage his conflict of interests in the Manuherikia catchment.

Mr Hadland said correspondence uncovered by an Official Information Act request showed Cr Kelliher remained involved in discussions about the Manuherikia despite declaring a conflict of interest and not participating in a major decision relating to the Manuherikia in August.

However, Office of the Auditor-general senior solicitor Jonathan Keate said the Auditor-general would only investigate breaches at meetings of the council or committees.

The prohibitions laid out in the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act, and the Auditor-general’s investigation responsibilities, did not extend to conduct outside formal meetings, Mr Keate said.

"Although the integrity of a councillor’s conflict of interest declaration could be undermined by active participation in the same matter outside formal meetings, the Act does not govern such behaviour," he said.

"However, these matters might be within the scope of a council’s code of conduct, which can cover behaviour outside of formal meetings, such as use of council information and communications with staff and other councillors."

ORC chairman Andrew Noone said earlier Cr Kelliher had nothing to answer for, and that the Act was not intended to stop all communication on a subject if there was a conflict.

Yesterday, Mr Noone said the matter was now settled.

"The highest governing body of the country, the Office of the Auditor-general, has basically made a declaration, or statement, and that speaks for itself," he said.

From the outset, Cr Kelliher called the allegations against him a beat-up.

Yesterday, he said Fish & Game should drop the matter and focus on its own record.

"I hope now Fish & Game will stop trying to deliberately create political turmoil at the ORC table, or constant fighting against farmers, and maybe focus on improving their own environmental degradation: trout exterminating native fish, or ducks fouling waterways, which they then blame farmers for," he said.

Mr Hadland said the Office of the Auditor-general had not cleared Cr Kelliher, but only said it was outside their scope.

He said Cr Kelliher was deflecting from the issue with "baseless" claims against Fish & Game.

He hoped the ORC would put measures in place to ensure "these situations are better managed in future".

"Our hope is that the ORC councillors learn from this and manage conflicts of interest around water more actively and transparently in future," Mr Hadland said.


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