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'Who runs the council?'

THE latest development in Gisborne District Council’s handling of the resource consent for the large Hawaiki Turanga sculpture proposed for near the Waikanae Stream mouth is “a disgrace and unprofessional” says Harbourview body corporate chairman Ian Graham.

At this week’s council meeting chief executive Judy Campbell told councillors an independent legal opinion supported the way the council handled resource consent for the proposed 6.3 metre-high and 16 metre-wide scuplture.

Speaking on behalf of residents and owners of the nearby Harbourview apartments which would face and look straight at the sculpture, Mr Graham said the process around it had all the makings of the Kelvin Park fiasco repeated.

In October last year the installation of six three-metre-high sculptures in front of the C Company building next to the museum upset many Gisborne people.

They were commissioned by Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust two years earlier but the trust did not have permission to install them as part of its resource consent and did not apply for approval as part of the landscaping plan required.

“All ratepayers should be seriously concerned at the apparent dysfunctionality

of this council and who runs it,” said Mr Graham.Mrs Campbell said the decision about the sculpture had been made long before she started, it was a very public document, in the 10-year plan and in this and other instances, she had done her job which was to implement the council’s policy and plans.

Mr Graham said for the large sculpture planned for The Cut, there had only been one meeting arranged by the council along with iwi and the residents. That was prior to the request for a judicial review.

“At this poorly and unprofessionally-run meeting, no compromise was sought by the chief executive who was chairing the meeting.

“Residents had to instead suffer 40 minutes of historical rhetoric.”

Since the May council meeting, when it was stated the parties should meet to try to find compromise, no correspondence had been received from the council or the chief executive to arrange a meeting between parties.

Mr Graham said the residents did receive an apology from the chief executive for poor process.

“An apology in most ratepayers’ minds means a mistake has been made, so put it right.

“Come out from behind the cover of the resource consent process and just do the right thing,” he said.

The residents had assurances from a previous chief executive that nothing would be built in front of their apartments.

“The sculpture is art work and not a strategically-vital development to the city.

“So it should be a compromising scenario.”

Unlikely for decision to be overturnedMrs Campbell said the independent legal person had been asked what the likelihood was of the council’s decision being overturned. The answer was highly unlikely.

“Why was the QC specifically asked this? The council has already acknowledged poor process.”

Mr Graham said the residents strongly concurred with councillor Roger Haisman’s comments.

“It is just a bloody whitewash,” Mr Haisman said.

Mr Graham said Mrs Campbell had already apologised for poor process and all councillors agreed and requested something be done.

“Who runs the council? The residents would say get out from behind the resource consent facade and deal with this issue as you should. The Local Bodies Act says the council should negotiate with ratepayers as a whole — in this case we have councillors wanting one thing and a chief executive apparently wanting another.”

The Gisborne Herald reported in 2013 the estimated cost of the sculpture was $355,000 and the council would contribute $100,000.

Mrs Campbell said she understood the residents were concerned and it saddened her Mr Graham had personalised the issue to her.

“The sculpture was decided on by the council long before I became the chief executive.”

It was part of the 10-year plan and she had no part in the resource consent process, which happened shortly after she arrived.

The concept was a very public document and had featured on the front page of the Gisborne Herald Weekender. The sculpture site had been left bare specifically for an iwi-centric art piece.

The matter was raised with the council following concerns raised by residents and she was not instructed to overturn the resource consent, or redo the process, she said.

“The council asked me to simply get a second opinion on how robust the staff decision-making process was.”

This was done and it was tabled at the meeting, then sent on to Mr Graham.

Earlier this year, Mrs Campbell, council staff and iwi representatives had offered to meet with the residents.

“Mr Graham showed no interest in the offer and none of the body corporate or the residents responded to the offer.

“As the chief executive it is my role to implement council policy and plans, which I have done so in this and all other instances.”