The vacant land on Fitzherbert St. PHOTO/FILE

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

An independent review is going ahead into how South Wairarapa District Council came to be in possession of a piece of commercial land in Featherston that may not be able to be built on.

On Wednesday, the council signed off on the decision, with an independent reviewer’s opinion on the matter to be made public at the council’s meeting on June 27.

The land in question, on Fitzherbert St, was acquired in a land swap with Trust House in 2010.

The council and the trust have both said they were unaware the land contained a telecommunications duct that would cost “hundreds of thousands” of dollars to move, according to Chorus, which owns the cables.

An independent reviewer will be given access to all available information and documents relating to the land, from the time of the swap until now, including details of why a proposal for a retail development failed.

Many of the documents have been provided by members of the public, who say the council failed to carry out due diligence on the land before acquiring it.

It was the council’s audit and risk working party that determined an independent review would go ahead.

The working party will appoint the independent reviewer, and prepare the terms of reference for the review, which will be in the form of a report written by council chief executive Paul Crimp and council officers.

It will look at transactions and other actions that relate to the Featherston land, and will accompany all supporting information to be given to the independent reviewer, who will also have access to relevant minutes and reports from public excluded council meetings.

The reviewer will conclude whether the council officers’ report is a fair and accurate reflection of what took place.

This opinion will be put into writing and the council will decide whether further action is required.

All documents will be released to the public.