Mayor unhappy at ORFU release

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
A "premature" press release from the Otago Rugby Football Union is behind controversy and "conspiracy theories" about Dunedin Venues Management Ltd's dalliance with the business of running rugby, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says.

There was general agreement among councillors spoken to yesterday it would have been better if they had heard about the relationship between the two organisations before it appeared in the Otago Daily Times early this month.

But while most alluded off the record to the press release, Mr Cull went on the record to criticise information being released before an agreement had been reached.

At the beginning of December, a press release announced council-owned company DVML would take over non-rugby activities, like marketing and sponsorship, from the ORFU.

But while the release said the two would "align resources with immediate effect" DVML chief executive David Davies told the newspaper the "shape and form" of the relationship were still being discussed, so details were uncertain.

At a council meeting this week, Cr Lee Vandervis raised concerns DVML was at arm's length from the council, a distance "too far to have control".

He claimed at an earlier meeting the company needed "a shake-up" because it was making major decisions without telling the council.

Asked for his views on the matter yesterday, Mr Cull said the ORFU press release had been "premature" and "there is no agreement yet",Despite "all the conspiracy theories" the company, in negotiating such a deal, was "completely" within its delegated authority.

The company only had to come back to the council to get endorsement for "significant" contracts, under rules in its statement of intent.

The ORFU contract was as yet unsigned, and was not significant.

Cr Richard Thomson said his view on the issue was it would be "helpful" for DVML to have advised the council on the nature of the agreement it had with the ORFU.

"I don't have a concern per se about them doing work for a fee from the ORFU, or back-office functions reducing costs for both parties. From a business perspective, it might make a lot of sense."

The same could be said from a governance perspective, where an autonomous board should be left to do what it was asked to do.

But there was a "political sensitivity" that DVML should have recognised.

Cr Colin Weatherall agreed, saying an increased level of communication would have been appropriate under the circumstances.

A clearly frustrated Mr Davies said last night he was "in the middle of a conversation" and it would not be right to comment.

He had said earlier in the day there was "a very clear statement made by us to councillors prior to that [Monday] meeting". That included how the matter came to be, how the company intended to handle it, and how it would handle it in future.

That communication had been last week, and the issues should remain "for elected members and ourselves," he said.

The difficulty was when people wanted to have that conversation "based on speculation".

Asked about rumours the company was in discussion with the New Zealand Rugby Union about taking on marketing and sponsorship for the Highlanders, he repeated he was "in the middle of a conversation" and it would not be right to comment.

Asked whether the press release was premature, ORFU chairman Wayne Graham initially said he had no further comment to make.

But he said councillors were "sensitive" about the issue, and confirmed no deal between the ORFU and DVML had been signed.

 

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