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Nixon, Patterson cleared of conflict allegation

Mayors and MPs meet in 2020 for the announcement of a $10 funding package for Hood Aerodrome. PHOTOS/FILE

No conflict uncovered

The Office of the Auditor-General [OAG] has cleared Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson and Councillor Tina Nixon of any financial conflict of interest regarding Hood Aerodrome.

Tina Nixon.

Nixon, who said she had faced “a swarm of social media comments” that have been critical of her integrity, was pleased with the findings.

She said the investigation had hung over her and Patterson’s heads for “quite some time”.

“This is a happy day,” she said, noting there seemed to be a campaign against her from some members of the Masterton community, attacking her integrity as an elected official.

“This campaign has been quite personal against me.

“If they think they’re going to stop me and make me alter my decisions, they are wrong.

“I make decisions, based on good information, that are good for the community.”

Late last year, it was made public that a complaint had been laid to the OAG alleging Nixon and Patterson voted to approve the Hood Aerodrome Master Plan in August despite a conflict of interest.

Adopting the Master Plan effectively gave the green light to a major infrastructure project at Hood Aerodrome.

Nixon’s partner is the manager of Hood Aerodrome and leases the land for a hangar he owns onsite.

An apartment is attached to the hangar, which he sometimes rents out for short-term stays.

Lyn Patterson.

Patterson’s husband also leases the land for a hangar he owns onsite – he has done so since 1989.

The OAG published its findings on Thursday, ruling that Nixon and Patterson did not have a financial interest in the council decision, and exonerating them of the accusation of wrongdoing.

“Mayor Patterson and Councillor Nixon provided us with all the information we asked for to consider this matter,” the OAG said.

“We concluded that neither had a financial interest in the decision, and so did not breach the act that applies in these situations [the Local Authorities Members’ Interests Act 1968].

“We are satisfied that Councillor Nixon’s partner has no financial interest through his employment because his pay is not linked to the Masterplan or any potential increase in activity at the aerodrome.

“An employment relationship, where a person receives a fixed level of remuneration, does not, on its own, give rise to a financial interest under the act.

“We were told that neither hangar site will be directly improved by the project – they are not in the area to be developed.

“We concluded that neither Mayor Patterson’s husband nor Councillor Nixon’s partner had a reasonable expectation of financial gain or loss as a result of the council’s decision to approve the Hood Aerodrome Masterplan.”

The OAG said other concerns were raised with them, “but the act that applies here covers only financial interests”.

“We are unable to consider non-financial interests as part of an investigation under that act.” — NZLDR

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