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Inquiry into how the Queenstown Lakes District Council and its chief executive have managed the chief executive’s interest in a proposed special housing area

28 May 2015

The Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, has decided to carry out an inquiry into how the Queenstown Lakes District Council and its chief executive, Mr Adam Feeley, have managed the chief executive’s interest in land owned by his family being considered for a special housing area.

This document sets out the background and terms of reference for the inquiry.

Background

On 23 October 2014, the Queenstown Lakes District Council (the Council) agreed a housing accord with the Minister of Housing under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013. The accord is intended to increase housing supply and improve housing affordability in the Queenstown Lakes District, with a particular focus on the Wakatipu Basin. The broad effect of the accord is to streamline Resource Management Act processes for special housing areas approved by the Minister of Housing.

On 30 October 2014, the Council adopted a policy setting out its criteria and process for assessing expressions of interest for special housing areas. The Council called for expressions of interest in early November.

On 26 November 2014, the chief executive advised the Mayor of his family’s intention to express interest in creating a special housing area on land owned by the family. He also proposed steps for how the Council could manage his interest in the matter. The chief executive’s family submitted an expression of interest in early December.

At the chief executive’s suggestion, the Mayor advised us of the proposed management approach and sought our views on any additional steps needed. We said in late December that we were comfortable with the approach. At that time, we focused on the steps that were to be put in place to manage the chief executive’s interest rather than the prior policy development process. For completeness, we have decided that it is important to consider the policy development period.

In May 2015, as the Council got closer to making decisions on expressions of interest for special housing areas, we received several requests from people in the Queenstown Lakes District to inquire into the chief executive’s interest in land owned by his family being considered for a special housing area, including any involvement he had in developing the housing accord and the Council’s policy before he declared an interest.

The requests raise issues of trust and confidence in Council processes, and issues about how Council officers can participate in those processes as members of the community. Accordingly, we have decided to undertake an inquiry into how the Council and chief executive are managing the chief executive’s interest as the Council proceeds to make decisions on special housing areas.

The inquiry

The inquiry will consider:

  • the nature and extent of any involvement by the chief executive in developing the Council’s housing accord and related policy for special housing areas;
  • how the Council and chief executive:
    • have managed the chief executive’s interest in land owned by his family being considered for  a special housing area;
    • should manage matters if the land owned by the chief executive’s family is approved as a special housing area; and
  • any other matters the Auditor-General considers it desirable to report on.

The inquiry is being carried out under sections 16 and 18(1) of the Public Audit Act 2001. We will not comment while the inquiry is under way, but will publish a report when the inquiry is completed.

Background information on the inquiry process

The role of the Auditor-General
Under the Public Audit Act 2001, the Auditor-General is responsible for annual audits, performance audits, and inquiries into how public entities use their resources.

The Auditor-General is an Officer of Parliament and, as such, is independent of the central and local government entities that we audit. The Auditor-General is responsible for determining the nature and scope of any inquiry she decides to carry out. The Auditor-General cannot be ordered to conduct an inquiry.

The Auditor-General has broad powers under the Public Audit Act 2001 to require public entities and other persons to provide information and to give evidence under oath. The Auditor-General has a general discretion to decide what information to disclose or include in a report.

General policy on comment during inquiries
Once the Auditor-General has begun an inquiry, the Office will not normally make any public comment on the substance or progress of the inquiry until we release a report. This policy protects the rights of those involved in the inquiry and our ability to carry out the work effectively and efficiently.

Further information

More information on the Auditor-General’s inquiry function is available at www.oag.govt.nz/our-work/inquiries.

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