On Sunday we released information gained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act that several regional councillors had received gifts and hospitality from Fonterra in the form of Rugby World Cup tickets for quarterfinal and bronze medal matches. There is a clear conflict of interest when the regulator is accepting gifts from the industry it is supposed to be regulating.
Horizons Regional Council Chairman Bruce Gordon reacted angrily to my suggestion that there was a conflict of interest. However the Manawatu Standard’s Grant Miller has written an opinion piece in support of the Green Party’s view.
This is the second time in this month that a conflict of interest has arisen between the dairy industry and Horizons regulatory independence, with criticism being voiced last week regarding Horizons intentions to invest in the dairy sector.
And in yet another situation of conflict of interest, the Auditor-General released a report in September in which she was critical of some regional councillors involvement in decisions on whether or not to prosecute environmental offences. While Waikato Regional Council quickly recognised that compliance and enforcement matters should be left up to experienced staff to decide, and disbanded their council advisory group, Horizons continued to argue that they saw no problem with elected officials being involved in enforcement matters.
They finally disbanded their prosecution advisory group yesterday although the decision was far from unanimous. Chairman Bruce Gordon voted against the disbanding of the group. So did Cr Greg Cox who, not content with voicing his stance against the decision, went on to call his constituents stupid with the statement,
“I see nothing wrong. It’s the perception that’s been put out there by people with a biased opinion too stupid to come and ask the question about what is happening.”
It’s no small wonder Horizons is facing questions about its credibility.