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TDC amalgamation flyer found to breach rules

April 13th, 2012
[Includes TDC press release]

The Auditor General has ruled that Tasman District Council's flyer sent to all Tasman households last week was in breach of the Council's resolution not to spend any money promoting or opposing the amalgamation proposal. (See out earlier story).

Tasman's Mayor Richard Kempthorne has accepted the view of the Auditor General and will personally pay for the cost incurred. The poll will go ahead.

"I was conscious that we had taken the decision not promote or oppose the proposal as a Council, and the intent of the flyer was purely to provide answers to some of the key questions raised in recent public meetings and to provide information not available in other material currently in circulation," he said.

"The Auditor General has taken the view when read as a whole the flyer was not neutral and opposes amalgamation. I have accepted that view and will accordingly make good the loss incurred to Council as a result of the publication. The amount I will reimburse Council is $3,088.14 (GST inclusive), which covers the set up, production, and distribution costs of the flyer."

Under the Local Government Act, any unauthorised expenditure promoting or opposing the reorganisation proposal is treated as a loss and all elected members can be held "jointly and severally" liable.

However, Mayor Kempthorne says that he takes personal responsibility for the content of the flyer and does not wish his fellow elected members to be exposed to the recovery of the debt.

He said that in his view the matter is now closed. "The remedy for the expenditure breach has been met and I do not see that the flyer in any way jeopardises the integrity of the poll and nor should it stop people from casting their vote on this important matter."

However, Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio told the Nelson Mail that he would not rule out a legal challenge to the results of the current poll on amalgamation, based on the official ruling about a biased leaflet. (Read the full article here).

He said in his role as representative of electors on amalgamation that he was disappointed that Tasman's move might have tipped the balance against amalgamation.

He would not rule out the option of a legal challenge open to electors in the event the poll failed, but said a more efficient process might be to wait for the Government to steer local government reform.


Comment by Mary Dowell:
[Posted 14 April 2012]

I must say that mayor Richard Kempthorn is very nobel because at least he stands up to be counted can this so called Martine Bouillir do the same? I think not. I for one am dead against amalgamation because we stand to lose a damned lot and will be Nelson's gain not only that both Tasman and Golden Bay will be off the limit. And a lot of people have been unable to attend these meetings but read quite a bit of confusing information in the paper and as far as we aer concerned the flyer and the TDC bulletin has brought to light information that we did not know about, thanks to the mayor for sending this information out to house holders.

Comment by John Kelly:
[Posted 16 April 2012]

It is a shame that the Mayor and the TDC councillors opposed to amalgamation did not take a page from the "1Region" lobby and simply disseminate the flyer as a private group. While I'd agree that no one statement is anything but neutral, I can see how, as a collection, the contents of the flyer could be interpreted as biased, and thus against the pledge not to advertise with ratepayer funds.

Credit should be given to Mayor Kempthorne for admitting the error unequivocally and paying up. Cr. Martine Bouillir exhibits no such integrity when labelling the TDC flier "propaganda" while engaging in misleading radio ads intimating all Tasman District Councillors favour the proposal. The pro-amalgamation folks have an amazing head-start as it is by claiming that the LGC's documents are "the facts", when they are suppositions - something quite obvious when reading the responses to the questions in the askaboutamalgamation website.

As a note, I submitted a question ten days ago simply asking for confirmation that the LGC was only allowed to weigh in on the petition - that is for amalgamation or for the status quo - and not allowed to comment on any other ways of enhancing government in the region - to date, my question has been ignored.

If Mr. Miccio uses this as an excuse to rally nine cronies to challenge the poll, shame on him. Mere days before the flier came out he publicly stated that he felt the poll would likely fail.

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