'Missing' $1 million paid to property trust

Information about the "missing" $1 million from the sale of Carisbrook in 2009 has been uncovered, but while it sheds light on the situation, it raises more questions.

The Otago Daily Times has this week asked the cash-strapped Otago Rugby Football Union (ORFU) about $1 million that apparently could not be accounted for, after the Dunedin City Council bought the Carisbrook ground for a widely reported $7 million.

In the union's annual report of 2009, the union says it sold Carisbrook to the council for $6 million. The $1 million difference between what the council said it paid, and what the union wrote in its annual report was not explained.

Despite a number of rugby union officials being asked about the issue, none was able to explain it.

But sale and purchase agreements for Carisbrook, obtained yesterday by the ODT, show Carisbrook was, indeed, sold to the Dunedin City Council for $6 million.

The vendor was the Otago Rugby Football Union.

The other $1 million is also accounted for in the sale, for the purchase by the council of residential buildings in Burns St.

Carisbrook had three sections of land: the stadium itself, the car park next door, and the Burns St buildings.

The vendor for the Burns St buildings, though, was not the ORFU, but the Property Holdings Charitable Trust.

The ODT reported in 2007 the ORFU had gifted the Burns St homes to the trust as the first step in a process that would eventually include the gifting of Carisbrook to a trust, something that did not happen.

ORFU chairman Wayne Graham said yesterday he did not know the finer details of the matter, but the houses were bought at a time when there were plans for Carisbrook to be expanded.

It was possible there had been money owing on them.

Questions remaining include what the money, which came from ratepayers when the council bought Carisbrook, was used for, when the ORFU had been calling for help because of financial difficulties.

The union is battling financial problems, with Jeremy Curragh appointed as change manager, and the New Zealand Rugby Union lending it money to keep operations going.

The ORFU has accumulated losses of nearly $4 million in the past five years and is due to post another sizeable loss later this month.

Details of the Property Holdings Charitable Trust could not be found yesterday, as the trust does not appear to be listed on the Companies Office societies and trusts register.

University of Otago professor of accounting David Lont said that was not unusual, as trusts did not have to be listed unless they planned to take donations from the public.

No "alarm bells" rang from what he had heard of the union's financial dealings in the case, as they were not unusual.

Former ORFU business manager Neville Frost could not be contacted yesterday afternoon.



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