Councillors question closed discussion

Some Queenstown councillors were concerned yesterday when 12 of 19 items on a council meeting agenda were moved into non-public discussions.

But acting mayor John S Wilson defended the move, saying the items would eventually come before the full council at an open meeting.

Cr Vanessa van Uden described the move as "over the top", saying councillors were accountable to the public.

"We are representing a shareholder in these matters, which is the ratepayers. The public has every right to hear the discussions.

"Sometimes there is a valid and justified reason to exclude the public ... we should be more open and transparent," she said.

Cr Lyal Cocks started a debate about the issue yesterday, saying the reasons for moving each item into the non-public arena had to be discussed.

Council chief executive Debra Lawson was in favour of the "statements of shareholder expectations", regarding the council-controlled organisations Lakes Leisure, Lakes Environmental and the Queenstown Airport Corporation, being discussed without the public (and media) present.

"The issue has not been before the council. It should, as a matter of courtesy, be discussed here first, before it is made public," she said.

Council regulatory general manager Roger Taylor backed up his chief executive.

"It is about having a frank and honest discussion here [at the council meeting] before it is made public," Mr Taylor said.

After the meeting, Cr van Uden said there was nothing in the discussion which was confidential.

"I still do not see a reason to discuss it behind closed doors," she said.

Cr Cath Gilmour also queried the exclusions, while Crs John Mann and John S Wilson spoke in favour of the specific items being discussed in private.

When the vote ended in four votes for exclusion (Crs Wilson, Mann, Mel Gazzard and Lex Perkins) and four votes against (Crs Cocks, van Uden, Gilmour and Gillian Macleod), Cr Wilson used his casting vote as deputy mayor and chairman of the meeting to enforce the exclusion of the public.

Items discussed with the public excluded: Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park; purchase of land, Shotover River; terms and conditions for Frankton Marina lease; Queenstown Aquatic Centre coil failure; Queenstown Aquatic Centre fast hydroslide; panel contractors framework contract; authorisation for mediation over appeals to plan change 16, Three Parks; resource consent appeal, Spruce Grove; statement of shareholder expectations; legal services; council tax losses; appointment of director for Queenstown Airport Corporation.

Items open to the public: Mayor's and chairpersons' reports; chief executive's report; objection to a menacing dog classification; Local Government New Zealand conference in Auckland; removal and disposal of refuse bylaw 2010; Queenstown Lakes District Council speed limits bylaw 2009, amendment No 1 of 2010; making plan change operative: plan change 28, trails.


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