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Land purchase secrecy

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A resolution to go into public excluded at a South Wairarapa District Council meeting on Wednesday was challenged by Featherston councillor Ross Vickery.

The newly-elected councillor said there was no good reason the matter, which was listed in the public agenda simply as ‘purchase of land’, could not be discussed in a public forum.

Vickery referred to section five of the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act, saying “information shall be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it”.

He did not consider discussing the matter in private to be of “transparency and fairness”, and said he believed there would be “no commercial harm” done by doing so.

Council chief executive Paul Crimp disagreed, saying there was “no way it can’t impact what may eventuate if this is discussed in public”.

It could have a “significant positive or negative effect” on the process.

Crimp said when it was found out “a few years ago” that the council were looking to purchase land, the price went up 40 per cent.

Acting mayor Brian Jephson then dropped the words “golf course” into the mix.

Featherston Golf Course is currently for sale.

Lee Carter, also of the Featherston ward, supported Vickery’s move for transparency.

“We’re in this predicament because we weren’t straight up in the first place and I think we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with the people that we’re dealing with.”

The predicaments were not spelt out — but the council has been criticised over commercial land in Featherston which it cannot build on due to telecommunications ducts, and faces opposition over proposals to irrigate wastewater to land close to residential sections.

The matter was put to a vote, with Carter and Vickery voting for the report to be discussed openly.

Martinborough’s Pip Maynard abstained from voting, while Jephson and the five remaining elected members around the table successfully voted the public exclusion go ahead.

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